Simply put, our own Neil Shirley did it again. His first words at the finish, "That hurt!" Neil admitted that Tommy Danielson and Levi were running at a rocket ship pace up the big climb, but when they all pulled into the first rest stop, the two WorldTour Pro riders decided to linger so Neil rolled on with a handful of other Pro riders until he dispatched them one by one and rode in solo. One rider of note was 17 year Tyler Williams from Bakersfield, CA who put up a good fight before finally finishing third. Neil broke the course record that he set last year by finishing the 101 mile ride in 4:42. Most interesting about the course for anyone vying for the fastest rider award was that they had to ride a nine mile long dirt section. Specialized's Rebecca Rusch was the overall winner for the women.
This is was a cycling event made up of 7500 enthusiastic riders looks like.
They came from near and far, and some of them even came aboard a Ducati MultiStrada.
The collection of bike ridden at the Gran Fondo was as varied as they come...imagine riding this bike for 35 miles - yikes!
Then again, how about this BMX cowboy who rode the piccolo route on his singlespeed. Bravo!
It was cool to see such a variety of old bikes, like this rare Gary Fisher tandem that was still running the toe straps and thumb shifters of old.
If it was for getting paced in by SRAM's Alex Wassman and multi-time national and world champ dual slalom mountain biker, Brian Lopes, this Mexican would still be out on a coastal hillside gasping for air. Thanks for the pulls you guys. I wanted to take more ride photos, but the thought of losing Alex's wheel at about mile 35 was too frightening to think about.
This sea of bikes was just a portion of the bike parking lot.
The Gran Fondo promoter, Bike Monkey, did a phenomenal job putting on the Gran Fondo. They have every aspect of the event figured out to maximize the experience for all the participants... including post-ride valet parking. With a whopping 1000 volunteers to draw on, Levi's Gran Fondo ran as smooth as could be.
The second longest line at the apres-ride festival was for the New Belgium beer tent.
The longest food line was rightfully reserved by the Gerards's Paella
booth. If you ever wondered about what makes a fantastic post-ride meal, paella is it and Gerard's was fantabulous.
I don't know about you, but oysters on the half shell after a super hard effort just doesn't seem like a good combo.
Clif was one of the rest stop sponsors and as usual their selection of bars and Bloks made the difference between failing and finishing for a lot of people.
Following their day-before-donut hi-jinx, actor Patrick Dempsey and Levi Leipheimer were stoked on the massive success of the event. In two weeks, Dempsey will be running his own Gran Fondo in Maine and RBA will once again be there to get a taste of the east coast style.
Thanks Levi, Nissan, RadioShack, Bike Monkey, the city of Santa Rosa and all the other sponsors for making the 2012 running of Levi's Gran Fondo a huge success.