Professional cyclist Levi Leipheimer was recognized as the Santa Rosa Chamber of Commerce Businessman of the Year for his work in introducing the inaugural King Ridge Gran Fondo to his hometown of Santa Rosa, California last year.
The second annual event will take place on October 9, 2010.
“I’ve never considered myself a ‘business man’ in the classic sense, but I’ve always kept my eye open for something unique,” Leipheimer said. “I saw a great opportunity for our community here in Santa Rosa and for our sport. However, I never imagined the impact that the Gran Fondo has had. I’m proud of the Gran Fondo and what it means to cyclists, our community and the beneficiaries of the event so therefore I’m motivated to keep business thriving for years to come.”
The Santa Rosa Chamber of Commerce presented Leipheimer with the award at its annual dinner reception held at the Santa Rosa Golf and Country Club. Other awards were presented to the Santa Rosa Businesswoman of the Year and the Santa Rosa Big Business and Small Business of the Year.
“The city of Santa Rosa polled the 2009 participants of the Gran Fondo and calculated $1.2 million was generated in revenue and this was in an economically challenging period,” Leipheimer said. “Fifty-percent of the participants brought at least one person who did not ride the event so there were a couple thousand more who came to the expo and stayed in our city for at least one night.”
The mass-start group ride fundraised over $100,000 in its inaugural season that was donated to the Forget Me Not Farms, an organization helping thousands of at-risk children and youth break the cycle of abuse by working with the rescued farm animals. A large portion of the funds also went toward bringing back the Santa Rosa stage of the Tour of California.
“Bringing back the Tour of California in turn promotes the world class area and history we have for cycling and what better way to experience that than to ride the Gran Fondo,” Leipheimer said. “So as you can see it’s very synergistic.”
The mass-start group ride caters to all cycling levels by offering a 165-kilometre Gran Fondo that incorporates the locally famed King Ridge climb, a 105-kilometre Medio Fondo and a 57-kilometre Picolo Fondo.