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When I think about the King Ridge Granfondo in Sonoma County, California, many emotion laced words and feelings come to mind. First and foremost is a feeling of community and family. The event, which is now in its second year, has grown to include 6000 cyclists, however, it still manages to keep a small town feel. Walking into Finley Center in Santa Rosa for Packet pickup is a lot like coming home. The race just has this awesome feel to it! From the warmth of the volunteers, to the shared camaraderie of the participants, to the sponsors, and even down to the jerseys designed by Odessa Gunn - the event is truly first class. In many ways traveling to the Fondo was coming home for Liam and me. We are now living in France, but for the last several months training for the Santa Rosa ride has been our link back to the states.
Levi Leipheimer - The man behind the event
The other words that come to mind when I think of the Granfondo are beautiful, majestic, and very, very hard. The Granfondo route is over some of the most beautiful terrain in California, or, for that matter, the world. Vineyards, redwoods, mountain tops, and insane sweeping, rugged coastal views are just to name a few things that one experiences on Fondo day. Of course, there is a price to be paid for experiencing so much beauty in one day on a bike. The toll is the sweat and effort of pedaling a bicycle 103 miles over a course with 8500 ft of climbing!
This year the Coleman Valley climb came at 78 miles
Last year in 2009 after completing the 65 mile event Liam (then 9 years old) decided that he wanted to come back to Santa Rosa in 2010 and give the full 103 mile route a go. At 10 years old he would be the youngest participant to have completed the King Ridge Gran route. I was mixed about the idea. For his age, Liam is somewhat of a freak of nature when it comes to endurance. I had no doubt that if he put his mind to it he could complete the 103 mile ride, but the question for me was how to get him there without injury or over training. I also wanted Liam to know that there was always the option to do the 65 mile route again, if he wasn't up to the full 103 miles. Liam worked really hard all summer and did a lot of cross training. Take a look at the blog post "What it Takes" for more specifics on his training. Then, of course, there was the question of me getting in to physical shape to do the ride as well! The whole project turned into a wonderful bonding experience. We literally turned our new house in Provence into "training camp." Our training rides became our way of exploring our new home in a way that few people can. By training in France and completing the journey in California - Provence, France and Sonoma County, California somehow seem much closer together now. A simple bicycle has bound these two areas together in a new forming concept of what now constitutes our home. Our experiences on and off the bike has radically changed the way we see the world. The world is now truly our home!
Ben King and Liam
Yesterday October 9th, 2010 we completed the "century ride" journey. Liam kicked butt out there! He was incredibly strong throughout the day and rode like the warrior he is. Liam now can proudly say that he has ridden 103 miles over one of the toughest century courses in the country.
After finishing the ride we came over to say hello to Levi and thank him and Odessa for the event. To Liam's surprise and honor they asked him to go up on to the Fondo stage with them, US Road Cycling Champion Ben King, and Dave Towle. That was pretty darn cool!
The post Fondo Stage
The event was a huge success not only as a bike fondo, but also for raising funds for the community, the Forget Me not Farm, and the battle against cancer through Livestrong. Levi, Odessa, all the volunteers, sponsors, and participants made this possible. I say it a lot and I will say it again - Together we can and do make a difference!
Livestrong, Train Safe, and Live Well!!!
Bill and Liam signing out!