I just scored a free one day adventure from a luxury bike touring company. Actually, everyone who showed up for the Duvine and Assos-sponsored rides around the stunning countryside of Sonoma didn’t pay a thing.
Over a hundred of us were treated to an amazing day out with full catering, sag support and all logistics. Duvine and Assos started what they call the CAMPionissimo last year but I missed that one. I didn’t make the same mistake twice.
As an vacation appetizer for what you’d experience on a Duvine cycling adventure in France, Italy, Spain or any number of beautiful destination, it was simply perfect. We had our choice of the usual short, medium and long, each led by two Duvine leaders along with Andy Levine, the head of the company.
Everything was well organized, our two tour guides Andy and Rebecca were awesome and there were plenty of snack stops along the way, including a lunch break in the small town of Occidental, which fits the general Sonoma country definition of rustic and charming.
I actually don’t know how Duvine and Assos pulled all this off for free, treating us to such a nice day, but I’m thrilled they did. For those of us lucky enough to not have full time jobs, there were rides on Friday, Saturday and Sunday and a talk by Tyler Hamilton. Retired pro and Sonoma country resident Levi Leipheimer also joined the ride. He lost his home to the recent fires and Duvine also raised funds to support the SonomaStrong recovery efforts. Props all around.
Speaking of the fires, I wasn’t sure what to expect. I live in the next county further south and while I’ve seen plenty of terrible images of the devastation on the internet, I hadn’t been up in Sonoma since the fires. While we rode for 66 miles, covering a large section of the area, we really didn’t see much except for a few burned hillsides off in the distance. Obviously, the ride is to showcase Sonoma wine country, not provide and up close and personal of the awful ravages of the fire.
Late November in Sonoma is unpredictable in terms of weather. It could have been cold and rainy or sunny, crisp and beautiful. We got the sunny version, rolling out at 9:30 with a temperature that rose from 45 to 60. Absolutely ideal conditions for a generally flat or rolling 66 mile tour with just a few short, steady climbs.
It’s pretty easy to ride that distance when every turn in the road provides inspiration. All the grapes have been harvested but the reds, golds, yellows and greens were still in evidence everywhere. It was a reminder that even though I’ve lived in Norther California for over 30 years, you can never spend too much time up in Sonoma and Napa. If you love great good and wine and beautiful rides, it’s hard to beat this corner of the world.
Another reminder I received is that I need to spend more time around younger people. You get into your 50’s and 60’s and it’s easy to get negative and crabby. I have to say our guides Andy and Rebecca were good role models. Andy was English but grew up in Brittany and was a pleasure to be around. Rebecca spoke three languages and I can attest that her french accent was so superb I thought she was French. They were everything you’d want in a tour guide: Friendly, knowledgable, attentive and quick to respond to any needs. If this is a representative sampling of the Duvine guides, then Duvine moves to the top of my list for cycling vacations.
When you’re riding at a good pace, it’s often hard to take photos. You’re living in the moment, trying to feel it and soak it all up, instead of art direct a few pictures. So while I knocked off a few quick iPhone shots at one snack stop, I’ve included a number of photos on the Sonoma rides from the Duvine website.