We’re a week away from the fondo fantastico, Levi’s Gran Fondo in Santa Rosa, California, Sunday, October 4th.
It’s too late for you folks over in Europe to buy the ticket, pack the bike and fly into San Francisco then take a rental car with rack for the 1hr 30 minute drive to Santa Rosa — stopping along the way to sample some killer Sonoma county wines.
To you euros we say, Jesus, plan ahead, willya?
But for those of you in California who still haven’t signed up, there is still room for you to join the estimated 7500 people for the fondo of fondos.
Now we’ve written before about the many joys of Levi’s Gran Fondo but it always bears repeating.
Do you like stunning coastal scenery on smooth fast roads, do you like challenging climbs that will test your alleged fitness, do you like the massive collective energy that comes with riding with thousands of bike-happy people, do you like to end rides with terrific live music and beer and wine and fine food outside in what most likely will be perfect weather?
Essentially, are you for or against the awesome-sauce of LGF? Are you a glass half full person or a glass half empty or a water-bottle fully topped off with the elixir of good times?
This is reaction time: there is still time to jump on this adventure and make some indelible memories and add some epic to your next weekend.
The LGF is the most well-run fondo operation you’ll ever see and that doesn’t mean rules, rules, rules. It means everything has been thought of over the years so every part of your experience is dialed in for fun.
The organizers have the fondo down to an art form and every touchpoint (to use an obnoxious biz word) is close to perfect. Whether that’s road marking and closure, rest stops, feed zones, food and drink, car and bike parking, music, gourmet food, first aid — all 1000 of the small details are taken care of so all you have to do is soak up the happiness.
Here’s the thing — I’ve been to three or four LGF’s and I’ve missed one or two. I can honestly tell you I regret missing those few and wish I could find a wormhole, transport back in time with my bike and ride them. That’s how special the LGF is — you pine emotionally for the ones you didn’t ride.
We’ve always take the middle distance route, the 6o-ish mile Medio (with 4000 feet of climbing) and already know the range of emotions and physical challenges awaiting us.
The start in Santa Rosa is a rousing affair that will energize you even before you clip into the pedals. You’re with thousand of fellow bike lovers and it feels just like that — a love fest. There’s a collective high, everybody is jazzed. Like maybe just maybe bikes are about to take over the world and peace will ripple across the globe and you were at the epicenter.
You roll out and in short order you’re on the farm roads and then the rollers and small climbs that take you out to the coast. Heading out, there’s a small town vibe with people sitting in chairs in front of their homes, waving and cheering you along. Even those who aren’t riding know this is a special occasion and treat it as such.
You can set your physical challenge right away. Like most guys, we uniformly go out too fast and pay later — you’re just too jacked up with excitement and before you know it, you’re taking rotations in a pace line of guys that are way fitter than you.
You’re flying, on course for a personal record, but about 30 minutes in you come to a few realizations. They’re faster and stronger than you, your heart rate is too high and you’re missing all the beautiful scenery and you haven’t said a word to your friends because you’re hammering.
So slow down. The LGF is a joy at any speed but our recommendation would be to back off and save yourself for the big climbs. Appreciate the changing landscapes that take you toward the rocky, dramatic coastline and make some new friends on the road.
In particular, let your legs spin a little as you turn south on the coast road. This is Instagram heaven and you probably need a dozen selfies of you, friends, cliffs and ocean. It’s ohh-so-tempting to hit the gas and motor along those stunning roads but stop at least once to get your required dose of awe.
Now those super fit folks who are doing the 100 are further up north on another loop and those who are cruising the 30 are ahead of you grinning like fools but for those of us on the 60, the real test is about to come — the climb of Coleman Valley Road.
This is a bear and chances are in a few of the steepest 12% grade sections you’ll get a close view of somebody going so so slow they suddenly just stop and fall over, cartoon style.
Last year, for reasons we can’t discuss, we were dehydrated and suffered mightily on Coleman Valley. But we simply employed the usual strategy of lying to ourselves, insisting that we’d only do ten more pedal revolutions than get off the bike, then lie again for 10 more pedal strokes, then lie again, ten more.
Eventually, we suckered ourselves into getting over the climb but we dug pretty damn deep. (That would manifest itself at the finish with a full body cramp that eventually went away with a successful beer infusion strategy.)
Once up on top, it’s rollers and a rocking descent and Strava will tell you good job, you’re on the backside, get ready for a thrilling high speed descent. You can prove a lot of things to yourself on a great ride and the LGF is your stage. It’s fun, challenging, exhilarating, beautiful, inspiring, and we haven’t even gotten to the festivities. Hell, a good many people have a fab time doing the short route and are already in full party mode when you arrive.
So we say again, get yourself in gear and belly up to the fondo — THE fondo, Levi’s Gran Fondo. See you there.