The GranFondo 'Medio' loop is about 60 miles tracing from Santa Rosa to Occidental and down the Russian River to Duncan's Mill. From there it is a left turn onto the coast road for some spectacular views of the leviathan rocks over an almost Caribbean-blue Pacific Ocean. The sky was clear as we made the turn and the air carried the cool dank of seaweed soda-foam up the sheer cliffs from the water's edge to the roadside.
This stretch of Highway 1 climbs and descends with wide, sweeping bends that encourage the two-wheeled set to accelerate madly on the way down, tuck tight into the apex and hold as much speed as possible on the climb out. Big ring, all the way. And the road surface, unlike so many in California, is seamless and uniform. It's like the best amusement park roller coaster you've ever been on, but better. No rails.
One more rest stop at Portuguese Beach, and it was just a quick spin down to the left turn and Coleman Valley Road. I'll start by admitting that I had to put my foot down this year. Beth, after training for her half-marathon and a good deal more riding than I've done this year, went spinning right up to the top. This is by all accounts a killer of a hill with some parts into the double-digit incline percentages. The pros have done it in the Tour of California, and apparently they go up on the big ring. I was wishing for a triple because I didn't have enough power to keep things spinning while in the saddle. Standing up, the whole way. Without enough miles in the legs its just a challenge to keep out of the red zone. It is still an awesome feeling to crest and take a moment to look back at the view from the top. We live in a state with spectacular natural beauty, and it is all too easy to drive right on by and never notice it.
Somehow I'd managed to forget that there is still a good bit of climbing to do after Coleman to get back to Santa Rosa. The roads wind between active farmland and redwoods, and there is a beautiful old schoolhouse along the way as well so it is hard to avoid being enchanted by the environment. Through Occidental and over the last few ramps into Santa Rosa, where we turn right onto the local cycle path. Last year, this section was all packed gravel but it was paved for 2010 and FAST. Unfortunately a number of the "Grand" riders seemed to forget we weren't racing and went blazing through, almost obliterating a couple of riders who were out for a casual weekend ride in the other direction. Fortunately the outcome was only skids and hollers.
And with that, we were back into the Finley center where we enjoyed some free food, lemonade and got to say hi to Levi and Ben King (the newly minted U.S. Pro champion.).
As organized rides go, this one has about the best organization and engagement I've ever experienced. The people are all fabulous. The support from the city of Santa Rosa is more than you could possibly hope for, and the involvement of local riders and international pros makes it more than just a training target.
I can't wait till next year. Better get training.
And P.S. -- Thanks to the Flying Goat for the free coffee. Superb.