Find out why Levi’s Gran Fondo is a ride to plan your season around.
The gorgeous scenery of King’s Ridge Road is as legendary as its sharp climbs and thrilling descents.
Gran fondos have long been a staple of the Italian amateur cycling scene, but have recently jumped the pond to become a big deal in North America. These mass start events are a great way to test your personal fitness, and multiple distance options mean there’s a challenge for every rider.
Levi’s Gran Fondo, held annually in and around Santa Rosa, California, has quickly become one of the top events in the country, and for good reason. If you haven’t signed up yet, we highly highly (highly) recommend you do. Why you ask? Because…
1) The Route is Amazing
Of course you expect to ride pretty roads for any event where you shell out some cash, but these roads are downright epic. Levi Leipheimer used them as his personal training playground during his racing career for a reason.
The 103-mile Gran route has 9,000 feet of climbing and features the legendary King’s Ridge Road. Known as the crown jewel of the north bay, the segment features 1500 feet of climbing paired with epic descents and tons of great scenery. If that’s not enough, after a ripping tailwind section on Highway 1, riders are treated to the sometimes soul crushing 17-percent pitches of Coleman Valley Road. Feeling like a “lighter” ride? The 65-mile medio route has 4,000 feet of climbing, still has views of majestic redwoods and sweeping coastal vistas, and there is still a healthy dose of difficulty (see Coleman Valley Road above). If the family’s in tow you can opt for the a 32-mile piccolo route that has 1,500 feet of climbing.
Another highlight is the fantastic aid stations, which are stocked with local and organic fare, such as sandwiches, warm baked goods, and of pre-cut fresh fruit. There’s also plenty of tried and true energy bar/gel favorites.
BONUS: If you like riding dirt, both the gran and medio routes include an unpaved option.
Barreling down Highway 1 before starting the climb up Coleman Valley road is one of the most memorable parts of Levi’s Gran Fondo.
2) The After Party is a Party
When you’re done turning over the pedals, Levi’s Gran Fondo has the FondoSonoma Festival in store. This free event is open to the public, which means if you have friends or family who aren’t cyclists, they can still join you at the finish. A huge variety of locally grown organic food is available, in addition to that all important recovery beer (New Belgium is a sponsor). There’s also a Kid’s Zone and live music.
BONUS: The FondoSonoma Festival features free bike valet for event participants — and anyone else who shows up.
3) It’s a Ride for a Cause
Levi’s Gran Fondo is a charity event, so pedal knowing a portion of your entry fee goes to a good cause. There are five organizations which benefit: VeloStreet’s Cycling Initiatives Program, Forget Me Not Farm, Community Giving, The Dempsey Center for Cancer Hope and Healing, and The Pablove Foundation. If you’re trying to make it a family or group effort and not everyone is a cyclist, you can gather donations even if you don’t plan on riding in the event, either individually or as part of a team.
BONUS: Incentives are available to make the fundraising cause that much sweeter, with prizes ranging from a Road ID Gift Card at the $200 level, to complimentary lodging for Friday and Saturday nights of the event weekend at the $3,600 to $5,000 level.
Capo Cycling Apparel makes sure you have both the latest technology and the latest style for your ride experience.
4) The Duds are Killer
Event apparel can be hit or miss, but in the case of Levi’s Gran Fondo, it’s a home run. Capo Cycling Apparel’s custom department has come up with a fun design you will want to wear for many rides to come, with both men’s and women’s options available.
BONUS: Both the jerseys and the bibs are made in Italy, only fitting for a Gran Fondo event.
5) You’re in Wine Country
Unless you happen to live in Northern California, you will likely be flying to the event. This means it’s nice to have other attractions to make the trip worthwhile. Santa Rosa is close to both Napa and Sonoma in the heart of California Wine Country, meaning there are countless vineyards to explore on the days before and after the Fondo. Not in the mood for wine? Local breweries such as Russian River Brewing Company have you covered. Plus, the area cuisine is famous for being local and fresh. If you have a group with you that doesn’t ride, you can rest easy knowing they are also going to have a trip to remember.
BONUS: Come on. You’re in California Wine Country. Isn’t that bonus enough?
This year’s Levi’s Gran Fondo takes place October 5. The Gran route is sold out, but you can still sign up for the Medio or Piccolo rides. If you sign up for the Medio but still want to try for the Gran, a transfer waiting list is available.
Entry fee is $150 for the Gran option, $130 for the Medio, and $75 for the Piccolo. Registration for next year opens in January, so you need to plan in advance to get this one on the books. Learn more at www.levisgranfondo.com/