By BOB NORBERG
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
The Levi Leipheimer King Ridge GranFondo, second edition, is over.
Four days later, legs still a little sore, it is a mish-mash of sights and sensations, of craziness and antics.
For the record, I survived the 65-mile route and met my goal to make it up the hills, no pushing my bike, no walking. Coleman Valley Road deserves its thigh-burning reputation and I was respectful.
My CatEye computer is a little conservative and put the miles at 63.8.
Riding time was 5 hours, 29 minutes, with another 45 minutes at the rest stops, replenishing the fuel and liquids and standing in porta-pottie lines. My average speed was 11.6 mph and 31.6 mph maximum.
Having done the medio fondo, however, I really stand in awe of those who did 103-mile route.
But the GranFondo is not just a ride, it is an event, which attracted 6,059 riders, a mass of humanity in lycra and multi-hued jerseys, all shapes and sizes and ages, with just enough people in jeans, regular shorts, frizzy clown hairdos and sandals to make it the eclectic California we cherish.
For anybody who hates crowds, it is a scary, scary sight. In that elbow-to-elbow crowd, as well-behaved as it was, I seriously thought about just going home.
We only knew there was a starting line by the inflatable arch over Stony Point Road two blocks away and we moved slowly toward the starting line, with one foot on the pedal and the other pushing off like we were on skateboards.
You can put in the training miles, ride the steep hills, gulp down energy gel in raspberry, huckleberry and orange flavors, eat your weight in Clif bars, even learn to spell Clif correctly.
You can give up apple fritters and (mostly) beer and wine and learn to love fresh sliced tomatoes because you read somewhere that an adult should eat a tomato a day.
It doesn’t prepare you for the crowd.
It took 20 miles, until I reached Duncans Mills, before I shook off the cold and anxiousness.
And then it became fun.
There was a rhythm, a pace and a crowd of riders of like skills that to fall in with, a hospitable crowd. You passed and rode with care, casual conversation with strangers was easy and frequent, playing follow-the-leader down the twists and turns of the Bohemian Highway that at times was a tunnel of trees and brush.
On the coast, it was a spectacular fall day, warm and still, the ocean with only a few wrinkles.
Coleman Beach was the last rest stop before Coleman Valley Road, which climbs 800 feet in its first mile, and it was stocked with peanut butter sandwiches, fruit, Gatorade, gel shots . . . a volunteer assured me a caffeine-laced mocha gel was just the ticket for the hill ahead.
Bring on the monster, its reputation is well-earned.
Coleman Valley climbs immediately after turning off Highway 1 and is unrelentingly steep. But what a stunning view.
Fully half the riders were stopping and walking, some without warning; we had to take evasive actions and often ended up blocking others.
To the guy in last year’s GranFondo jersey who called my riding squirrely, so sorry.
It was in the saddleback after the summit that the elite riders, some of them professionals, on the 103-mile route started catching us, requiring a new level of vigilance and a new, up-close respect for their cycling skills.
Odessa Gunn, Levi Leipheimer’s wife, shot by me with an entourage of several riders.
On a steep downhill going into Occidental, a rider whistles past going more than twice our speed just before the hairpin, pure artistry and courage. Fun stuff.
Levi himself and his personal peleton passed me later on Hall Road, recorded by a helicopter and camera crew. I am a blue-jerseyed speck on a video somewhere.
Next year, the GranFondo has already been announced for Oct. 1. Mark your calendar. I’ll mark mine.