In early October, Levi Leipheimer hosted a Gran Fondo in his adopted home town of Santa Rosa, California. For those of you wondering what a gran fondo is, it's an Italian phrase which roughly translates to "big ride." Gran fondos are all the rage in Italy with as many as 10,000 cyclists showing up for the most popular events. It's a big deal in Europe and it's about time that these events migrated west across the great pond.
This past March, the Gran Fondo San Diego(www.granfondosandiego.com) was the first gran fondo to be held on American soil. Since then, gran fondo fever has hit the states with the Levi Leipheimer event being the next in line and a whole bunch of events scheduled for 2010. If you haven't experienced a gran fondo, you will have plenty of opportunities to do so next year.
Levi's event(www.levisgranfondo.com) featured a picolo(25-mile), medio(63-mile) and gran(103-mile) fondo routes with the 103-mile course following one of his favorite training rides. King's Ridge is one of the most beautiful roads in Northern California; it was hard to find a cyclist complaining about the challenging climbing and stunning views. Both the 'gran' and 'medio' fondos finished with the short, but steep, ascent of Coleman Valley Road, which was featured in several editions of the Tour of California.
Undoubtedly, the most heartening aspect of the Levi Leipheimer Gran Fondo was the outpouring of support from the community of Santa Rosa. It seemed like half the city came out to either volunteer for support or cheer on the riders. Levi has definitely made an impact on this community. His three wins at the Tour of California and his efforts to bring that race to Santa Rosa have endeared him to the public and the gran fondo offered Levi's fans an opportunity to show their appreciation.
Whether you go to San Diego, Santa Rosa or parts east, if you haven't ridden a gran fondo it's definitely worth checking out.