Levi’s Gran Fondo, the annual Sonoma County cycling festival and group ride, will take a slightly different route for this year’s event, say organizers. Rolling road-closures and a recent landslide have necessitated the changes, which will not have an impact upon the main climbs and descents of the route.
The basic course, laid out for the inaugural Gran Fondo in 2009, takes riders on one of three scenic rides: the Gran, which covers 103 miles and incorporates King Ridge Road; the Medio, which is 65 miles and cuts out King Ridge and the additional climbs; and the Piccolo, a 32 mile recreational ride which keeps participants away from the more remote western portions of Sonoma County.
The altered route for 2011 affects one portion of the final approach back into Santa Rosa, which riders in the Gran and Medio will encounter. A landslide on Coleman Valley Road, near Occidental, has caused a large hole to open up in the pavement, making passage dangerous for cars and bikes. An alternate route via Bittner Road has been suggested. Bittner runs parallel to Coleman Valley Road, but approaches Occidental from the south side of town. Riders would access Bittner from Joy Road, adding about a mile to the course.
Additionally, CHP have indicated that a mandatory cut-off will be required for Gran-route riders at the River Road/Cazadero Highway intersection. Riders who fail to reach the intersection before 10.30am will be redirected onto the Medio route, thereby avoiding the King Ridge portion of the Gran Fondo. Presumably this is to regulate rolling road-closures at the Meyer’s Grade/Pacific Coast Highway intersection, which was held open for riders in 2009 and 2010. Road closures are particularly important for Gran Fondo, since several of the main intersections are busy, and several thousand riders are required to flow through them during the course of the day.
Finally, event organizers have indicated that part of the route will be on unpaved roadway, a return to the authentic but generally unpopular climax of the 2009 Gran Fondo. In that year, riders were directed onto a loose gravel pathway for two miles before emerging at the finish. A gravel section is common on many European gran fondo rides, but some American participants of Levi’s Gran Fondo – many of whom did not expect the detour and did not know how to handle the surface – were frustrated and unhappy about having to ride on it.
Levi’s Gran Fondo takes place on October 1st this year, and is expected to attract the usual mixture of riders from Sacramento and all over Northern California, as well as a few individuals from out of state and overseas.