I jumped in the largest group ride I’ve ever been a part of last weekend. Gran Fondos (Fondi?) are all the rage nowadays. Chances are good that one’s sprouted up near you. They’re timed, sometimes even called races, and usually offer varying courses and distances. Kinda like a supported century ride with a timer. Many also include a partnership with a local charity. The one I did on Saturday didn’t really feel like a true race, even if it was timed and some folks took it pretty seriously. Click HERE to check out Biciveneto’s great explanation of the phenomenon of the Gran Fondo.
So last Saturday, the Palo Alto Gran Fondo presented by PlanetZ/Echelon went down (official website HERE). It included a party-like atmosphere at rest stops (photo above), full road closures with police escorts through downtown Palo Alto, and traffic cops at various intersections throughout the course. I almost couldn’t believe it when a policeman stopped traffic so my buddies and I could fly through a stop sign and across a major intersection on our way back into town! Never experienced that on a group ride before. PlanetZ/Echelon also puts on Gran Fondos in Napa, Ft. Collins, Tucson, Hood River, and Seattle among other cities. Great event, check ‘em out.
The 60 mile route on Sunday took us through one of our most familiar weekend loops but it was awesome to ride with close to 700 other riders on the road. Granted, by mile 10 most of the pack was pretty spread out but with that many people on the road there were always riders either passing us or being passed by us. Below is an interactive map of the route. I have to say this: if you ever visit the San Francisco Bay Area and have a bike, you must do this route. It’s one of my favorites and I can’t believe I haven’t mentioned it until now. It includes Kings Mountain Road (4 mile climb), Route 84 (9 mile descent), Hwy 1 (Pacific Ocean), and Tunitas Creek Road (8 mile climb). It’s an epic loop with switchback climbs through huge Redwood country that the Tour of California has seen fit to visit every year except 2011.
I don’t know who won. Not sure that was the point. It was just a great Saturday morning ride. Oh, forgot to mention, Greg Lemond was there too. I’d heard he’d be on the ride (his mug is all over the promo materials), but I absolutely could not keep myself from staring when we passed him on the Kings Mountain climb. He’s carrying a few extra lbs and I hear he doesn’t ride that much any more but still kind of a surreal experience to ride by one of the greats.