The nature of the human beast is procrastination. We may tell ourselves otherwise, we may toil under the gaze of walls covered in motivational posters, we may get really good at identifying primary action items, but we embrace distraction more often than not. Don’t take it personally. This newsletter was started four and a half weeks ago and we’re alternating tabs between this and Reddit at a near record pace.

But therein lies the brilliance of signing up for the GranFondo. You put your name down to ride one of the hemisphere’s toughest rides alongside thousands who are going to hold you accountable as they pull you further and faster down the road. You realized that, if you waited, you’d falter. You committed to beauty, agony, ecstasy, and triumph and you valued them enough to take personal choice out of the equation. You knew that this is a tooth grinding, gut puncher of a ride and that you’d have to prep all summer or risk dragging out your time in the saddle, miserably droning and creaking up hills you could otherwise dance your way up.

Or maybe you didn’t. But it was a good plan anyway. Three weeks to go. Tick tock tick tock.

Festa del Fondo

Every year, we convene a small group of notable cyclists, community leaders, and GranFondo enthusiasts around tall wine goblets and successive plates of mouth-drenching food just prior to the GranFondo. We celebrate Sonoma County, the charities the GranFondo supports, and generally raise a glass to the good fortune we all have that allows us to come to a beautiful place and ride our hearts out while helping others. We call it our Festa del Fondo dinner and we’ve once again swung the door to this little fête open to the any who find such things worthy of exaltation.

This year we’ll be hosting it once again, this time featuring some of Sonoma County’s most select wines, poured from the hands of the winemakers themselves (it’s harvest, by the way. Those hands will be stained a deep purple.) at Olympia’s Valley Ranch, west of Petaluma. We’ll have signature cocktails from Patrón Spirits, rare releases from New Belgium Brewing, and a dining experience that’ll stretch well into the night. It’s all for charity and it’s every bit as elegant as the GranFondo is challenging.

About a third of the tickets remain and we’d love to pull out a chair for you, come October 2nd. Please do consider joining us and please do consider purchasing those tickets sooner rather than later.

Medio Registration Spots Still Available

For those of you who actually embrace procrastination, cross against traffic lights, put the toilet paper on the wrong way, and generally delight in watching the world burn, we do have a small amount of spots remaining in our Medio and Piccolo routes. We say small amount because, relative to the 3,000 available spots, there’s only about 15% left and they’re going fast.

For those of you in the Gran route, congratulations, you’re in. Those of you still knocking on that door are a bit more out of luck. Thankfully, transfers are being traded wildly on our Facebook page. The scheduling woes of others can be the break you’ve been waiting for.

Fundraising

We mentioned it last time, we’ll mention it again: the GranFondo fundraising program is in full swing and we’ve decked our virtual halls with incentives for those of you taking on the challenge of raising money for our charities. We’re celebrating over a million bucks raised since 2009 for organizations like the Forget Me Not therapy farm for at-risk kids, west Sonoma County schools and volunteer fire departments, road repair, and the NorCal High School Cycling League.

For those of you wondering how your donation money gets spent, we did just hear from Forget Me Not Farm about some of their costs, specifically exactly how much it costs to send one at-risk child to Forget Me Not Farm for 6 months of animal-assisted therapy. It’s a whopping $175. That’s it. The older, foster teenagers can get one-on-one mentoring for the same time period for just $300. Now, your donations may feel like drops in a big bucket, but please trust us when we say that any amount can make a huge difference in the lives of those who need it. Don’t be shy.

Gran Route Cutoff and Willow Creek Gravel Option

We’ll give you from 8:00 AM to 6:00 PM to finish this ride. That’s 10 hours, a hell of long time to pedal a bicycle. But people do it, crossing our finish line right at dark and looking like, well, they’ve just spent 10 hours pedaling a bicycle. This is the limit of what we consider “safe,” what with darkness, fatigue, an open course coming together to produce a potentially riskier blend of conditions. This is precisely why we’ve implemented a solution on the front end of the ride to avoid problems on the back end.

Should any Gran route rider find themselves at the intersection of Fort Ross Road and King Ridge Road after 11:00 AM, you’ll be directed up Fort Ross rather than King Ridge. This is a lovely route, featured in the 2012 Amgen Tour of California, and rich with climbs and relative solitude. It’ll drop you right into the midst of the Gran riders right at the Ritchey Ranch rest stop a couple of hours or so later. This way, we keep smiles on your faces, we get riders back home safely before dark, and our emergency and volunteer course staff gets to only work for 12 hours in a row instead of 16. The intersection in question is just over thirty miles from the start and you’ll have just under three hours to pull it off. We figure anyone gunning for the Gran route should be able to make it to this point in the allotted time without too much trouble, especially when drafting in a pack of several thousand other riders.

Another shortcut option (kinda, but not really) for Medio and Gran riders is the Willow Creek gravel climb from the coast. It’s closed, it’s gravel, it’s got a couple of steep pitches, there are big potholes, and it climbs higher than Coleman Valley. It’s also car-free, a relatively more mellow grade, less cumulative climbing, and about four miles shorter than Coleman Valley. Our friends at Specialized will be running a virtual Strava segment up the Willow Creek climb with prizes for the KOM/QOM, so do not shy away simply because you might get some dust on those over-inflated tires of yours.

The Spirit Is Willing, But The Flesh Doesn’t Remain Weak

Despite suggesting otherwise, much can still be made of the time we have before October 4. We’re still convinced that there is a raging lion of fitness lurking just below those Dockers, jeggings, and pantsuits and we have made tools available to you to awaken the frenzied critter within.

We’re just over two weeks into our Strava Storm The Ridge challenge, where we told the segment chasers and leaderboard hounds they couldn’t ride 500 miles before September 21. About 2,700 of you have already proved us wrong (one guy did it in one 24-hour ride); the other 13,000 or so of you still have some pedaling to do. And here you thought the purpose of the Internet was to hit “like” buttons on cat videos.

Far more personally, our man Levi Leipheimer is offering to coach any and all of you GranFondoans to a better, fitter, sleeker, happier-in-the-saddle level than you thought possible. He’s put together, along with famed cycling trainer Max Testa, a customized, week-by-week training program specifically designed around the GranFondo, but good for year-round improvement in your form and fitness. It’s an on-line program, much like the sample posted on the signup site. By sample, we mean that you can try it before you buy it, just like that lady giving away pizza bites on aisle seven at Costco.

This program is not the first of its kind, but it is far and away one of the most affordable opportunities you’ll ever have to get trained by the level of expertise on this team. Everything you’d want to know is over at maxtestatraining.com/levigf.

We Can’t Do It Without Them

Now, the reason we get to have this on-bike shindig and get the high honor of supporting these life-altering charities is because we have partners who believe in what we’re doing. We’re working with bike shop extraordinaire NorCal Bike Sport once again as the head and the heart of cycling in our Northern California community. They host not only this vibrant culture, but also decades of expertise and performance within their shiny, wheel-strewn walls. This is the reason that Specialized Bicycles, the other side of our premier partner coin, chose NorCal as their first ever concept store in North America. It’s still a Specialized shop through and through, with all the innovation and attention to detail you’d expect from one of cycling’s most dedicated and passionate manufacturers.

Together, they’ve assembled some eye-popping programming on the Friday before the GranFondo, including the handing out of not one, but two, custom GranFondo road bikes, one Roubaix for the fellas and one Ruby for the gals. More on this later, but for now, plan on hanging your helmet on the beer taps at NorCal Bike Sport on GranFondo eve. Reruns of Law & Order on the hotel TV will wait, promise.