Thursday, October 21, 2010

YES I CAN! Ride Report: Levi Leipheimer's King Ridge Gran Fondo

(Yes - I now have THREE race reports to write!  Foxy's and Nike Women's will come tomorrow!)

Not only did I do it - I killed it!  This was far and away my favorite ride I have done to date - I think it was a true test of the training and effort I have put in to training for Foxy's and I have to say it I think it has all paid off.  Since finishing I have had grand dreams of the next challenges I want to tackle on the bike - the death ride anyone?  Ok, ok - JUST KIDDING, I might be getting a little carried away, maybe I should actually just ride 100 miles first but this ride definitely put a lot more cycling on the map for me for me next year.  I'll start at the beginning.

Thursday night was the Festa del Fondo fundraiser dinner which was held at a beautiful winery in Santa Rosa.  We got to get very up close and personal with Levi Leipheimer himself and just enjoy a very nice evening.  Funny enough, we actually sat next to the man who designed the Breakaway course!  I joked that I could have killed him!  In all seriousness though he was a wonderful person, a lawyer, and a pro-cyclist.  Pro-cyclist being the key word there - no wonder Breakaway was easy for him.  There was a silent and live auction where one of the items was a trip to France to actually ride a portion of the Tour de France course!  It was fully supported and they closed the roads just for the winner!  It only went for something like $4000 - expensive, but in the big scheme of things defiantly a steal of deal for a once in a lifetime opportunity!  A large majority of the proceeds from the fundraiser went to Levi and his wife's charity Forget Me Not Farm which is a wonderful organization that rescues abused farm animals and then pairs them with at risk children who come care for and bond with the them and together they can help heal each other.  I was thrilled we were able to help support such a worthy cause.

The dinner tent
Blurry Levi
One thing that was very important for me to do this time around was to drive the course.  I knew mentally if I knew what to expect if at any point the going got tough at least I knew what I would have to push through to make it to the end.  I was actually pleasantly surprised by the course.  Yes, it looked difficult but I felt prepared to tackle it.  There was only one part that looked really difficult - Coleman Valley Road.  When the car seemed to have trouble getting up the road I knew I probably would too.  I told myself right then and there that if I had to walk this stretch it would be no big deal.  It was maybe 3 miles out of 60.  I could do it.  The rest of the day was spend doing a little last minute shopping (like buying a new jersey) and just resting up.  We had a wonderful dinner and it was off to bed for the big day!

Truth be told, I did not sleep very well as my nerves got the best of me.  When my alarm went off at 5:00 am I was already wide awake and ready to go.  Our hotel was about two miles from the start line so instead of trying to find a place to park we just rode to the start line.  We met up with Samantha and then went to join the 6000 other riders participating in the event.    There was three different events one could participate in - the "piccolo" a 30 mile ride, the "medio" a 60 mile ride and the "gran" which was the 103 mile ride (and the one I am seriously considering trying to tackle next year - 8500 feet of climbing - gulp!)  My mom did the "piccolo" due to an injury while Kevin, my dad, Samantha and I all did the "medio" route. 
6000 people ready to ride!
Levi was in there somewhere as was Patrick Dempsy (for all you Grey's Anatomy fans.)  It was chilly at the start.  You all know how much I love the cold but even I started with both arm and leg warmers.  The gun went off at 8:00 am but since it was a mass start and we lined up towards the back (you were supposed to stage yourself according to your predicted finish time) it took us almost 27 minutes to cross the start line.  Not that I was complaining though.  I certainty didn't want to get trampled. 

The first 10 miles were great - cool temps, flat and fast.  My legs felt fresh, my nerves had subsided and I just felt good.  There was a lot of people on the course and it was in the first 10 miles we lost my dad but the three of us managed to stay together.

Around mile 11 we hit the first climb of the day.  It was long - about three miles but it was a nice steady incline.  I took it nice and slow and steady when when I crested I looked at Kevin and said something to the effect that that hill was the most awesome hill I had ever climbed.  I wasn't the least bit tired and was hungry for more.  After a nice fast downhill the piccolo course split from the medio/gran course.  I had lost Samantha in the crowds so Kevin and I pulled over to wait.  However, I was informed by the CHP this was NOT a rest stop and I had to keep moving.  I took off my knee sleeves at this point and decided we would catch her at the first rest stop around mile 21.

The road to the rest stop was awesome (yes, I am going to use this word a lot in this post).  Downhill and fast winding through beautiful tall trees and cool shade.  It was a cyclist dream.

We hit the first rest stop at mile 21 and hit up the snacks.  The food was absolutely incredible!  Fruit, chocolate, pretzels, chips, bagels, PBJs, granola bars - anything and everything you could ever want.  My absolute favorite  . . . the roasted potatoes!  I am not sure I can ever do another ride without roasted potatoes!  It was the perfect salty, carby (I know, not a word) mix.  I was in heaven!  I couldn't wait to get to rest stop number 2.

We never did get to see Samantha again.  Sadly there had been a bike crash and they closed the road for a few minutes to let emergency personnel in and she got stopped in that.  I kept my eye out though since she always zooms past me on the downhills - I can never keep up. 

The next section of the ride took us out to the coast.  After climbing another good climb we were greeted with a salty breeze and a gorgeous view of the pacific ocean!  Sometimes I forget how lucky I am to have the ocean in my backyard.

Another rest stop around mile 28 so you can load up before the most difficult part of the course.  Now, I didn't really need to stop since I just stopped 7 miles ago but if I have learned anything from cycling if you get a rest stop TAKE IT.  So I did and of course feasted on more roasted potatoes.

Look at all the delicious food!

Now, things got serious.  About 5 miles after the rest stop we turned left onto Coleman Valley Road.  Right at the entrance was a sign that said, "Caution: Difficult Climb Ahead."  Umm, "difficult" was an understatement - how about "ridiculous" or "insane."

Sadly, that wasn't even the top!
Soon after, I got off the bike and started to walk since that is what I figured I would have to do anyway.  However, after walking for 20 feet or so I thought to myself, "hey, you have not even tried to climb this hill, it may not be as bad as you think."  So, I got back on the bike and set points in my head to break the hill up - "just to that corner," or "just to that tree."  Slowly (very slowly) but surely I climbed that hill - all three insane miles of it.

Made it!!
We were not out of the clear yet, the insanely steep part was done, but the next ten miles still proved to be challenging, though at least we had some down hills sprinkled in there.  After that it it was one more good climb and then smooth sailing back to the finish line.

Only 5 miles to go!

Coming into the finish
Final Stats

I must have had the goofyist smile on my face when I crossed the finish line.  While all my training leading up this ride had been for the purpose of training for Foxy's Century, I think this ride was really the one in my heart I wanted to conquer.  After failing miserably at Breakaway, I wanted to prove to myself I could climb those hills and I did, abet slowly, but I mastered all of them.  

This ride has been by far my most favorite ride I have ever done - beautiful scenery, perfect weather, wonderful course support and challenging.  If all my training has taught me something too it is that I definitely prefer hills to flat.  Of course a good mix of both is ideal but hills work your legs and then you get some relief on the downhill, flat roads constantly work your legs because you have to keep pedaling, there is never any relief.  Still, almost two weeks later, I am glowing every time I think about this ride.  I could not have asked for a more perfect experience.

And . . . I beat Levi!  Okay, okay so he did ride 103 miles but I got to see him finish his ride about 10 minutes after we finished!  (He also stopped and mingled at every rest stop - in all actuality he probably could have done the 103 miles in 3 hours or something crazy like that).

He is the one in the Radio Shack jersey
Definitely this ride is on the "to do" list next year - actually the 103 mile "Gran" is on the to do list - 8500 feet of climbing - I may be crazy but I would love the challenge.  

After I finished I knew I would have no trouble completing Foxy's Fall Century the following week - stay tuned!

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  1. YEAH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    You're really in for punishment if you do the 103 mile one. But damn girl that looked like one crazy climb.

    Beautiful scenery and I love that jersey!

    Way to kill it on the bike lately. I should get back on the horse (um, bike).

  2. That looks gorgeous - as do you! You look so fit in those bike pics!

    Congrats on an awesome ride. It makes ME want to get out there & ride - and that's saying something! :)

  3. So proud of you for making it up Coleman Valley! This was such am amazing ride. 103 in 2011 all the way!

  4. amazing job girl! This totally makes me want to go out and do a long distance cycling event! I love twinsix jerseys! SO cute :)

  5. 6,000 riders? Holy crap!

    Great job on the climb girl. That looks so incredibly tough. ;)


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