King Ridge Gran Fondo draws 6,000 to Sonoma

Levi Leipheimer's successful charity ride doubles in sophomore year

Some 6,000 cyclists were treated during the King Ridge Gran Fondo by Sonoma County’s scenic and challenging terrain and the chance to ride with the sport’s notable pros and a few celebrities, including actor Patrick Dempsey.

Levi Leipheimer (RadioShack) was delighted with success of his second annual Gran Fondo held on the roads around his hometown of Santa Rosa, California on Saturday.

“We really have our hearts in this event, from Levi and Carlos [Perez] at the helm, all the way down to the last volunteer,” said Greg Fisher of Bike Monkey, the event’s management company and producers of a Santa Rosa-based quarterly bike magazine.

“The sincerity and enthusiasm that our participants and riders bring to the event is contagious as well, so we're lucky to have such genuine goodwill coursing through the vicinity. The good experiences that are bred in an environment like that, in a setting like Sonoma County, with a challenge like King Ridge, and the hospitality of the Fondo Sonoma Festival make for a can't-miss experience. With that in mind, it's not too surprising that so many people want to be a part of this.”

The mass-start group ride catered to all cycling levels by offering three different distances; a 165km Gran Fondo that incorporated 8,500ft of climbing largely from the significant ascent over King Ridge Rd, Sea View Rd and Meyer’s Grade Rd. Riders could also participate in the less daunting 105km Medio Fondo and a 57km Piccolo Fondo.

“It was a perfect temperature and it was completely still, all the locals remarked about the visibility out on the coast and the bright blue Pacific,” Leipheimer said. “We could see all the way down to Point Reyes from the top of Meyer's Grade, that was the view of the day.”

Riders had a spectacular day to enjoy Sonoma county's scenery

The Gran Fondo nearly doubled the number of participants over last year’s inaugural event to 6,000 riders. Fisher is hopeful that they will be capable of increasing the participation numbers for the third edition in 2011.

“It was indeed manageable, but there are always ways to optimize our logistics and improve our rider treatments,” Fisher said. “As ever, safety has to be our top concern when considering the number of participants. These are country roads and the course is not completely closed, so we continue to work with the California Highway Patrol and emergency responders to ensure the safest event possible.”

Those spotted amongst the masses included Leipheimer’s RadioShack teammates Jason McCartney, Janez Brajkovic, Jose Luis "Chechu" Rubiera, US national road champion, Ben King and Bjorn Selander.

Other professional road riders included the newly crowned U23 world time trial champion, Taylor Phinney of BMC Racing, Andrew Talanky of Garmin Transitions, Katheryn Mattis from California-based Webcor Builders Women’s team as well as pro mountain bikers Kris Sneddon, Max Plaxton and Mark Weir.

“I am very grateful to everyone who attended including pros, celebrities and industry chiefs,” Leipheimer said. “I was also proud to showcase our event to industry leaders like John Burke of Trek. We also had a group from Radioshack in attendance including Lee Applbaum, CMO of the corporation. Nissan was a huge presence at our festival and providing cars to shuttle people around all weekend, thanks in particular to Jay Schaffer.”

Among the list of celebrities participating in the event was Patrick Dempsey. The Hollywood actor and star on the hit television series Grey’s Anatomy is an avid cyclist who launched his own Gran Fondo group ride called the Dempsey Challenge held on the previous weekend in Maine.

Leipheimer and Dempsey, along with MC Dave Towle address the crowd after the ride

“Patrick and I met for the first time at the Tour of California in 2007 and this year we agreed to support each other's causes,” Leipheimer said. “My wife Odessa and I had a great time in Maine last week at the Dempsey Challenge and I would highly recommend that event to anyone. Patrick was extremely generous at our Gran Fondo this weekend and we made an agreement to continue to support each other's events.”

King Ridge Gran Fondo proceeds went to Forget-Me-Not Farm of Sonoma County, The Lance Armstrong Foundation, Santa Rosa’s Keep The Tour of

California Campaign, and VeloStreet’s Community Initiatives Program.

A portion of the money raised also went toward the Sonoma County cycling

community for a plan to create a Velodrome, cycling specific signage throughout popular cycling routes and creating a competitive grant program to fund cycling initiatives in California.

An accurate total of funds raised for each charity will be available soon however representatives of Bike Monkey are pleased that the estimated amount raised well surpass the $100,000 from last year.

“I would only add that we saw some great opportunities with individual fundraisers this year and we hope that more people will participate in 2011 as we'll have still more fundraising incentives for these folks next year,” Fisher said.

BikeRadar would like to thank CycleTo for providing photos of the 2010 King Ridge Gran Fondo.

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