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GUEST OPINION: Let's take the 'race' out of this grand ride

  • A father helps is son up Harrison Grade during Levi Leipheimer's King Ridge GranFondo, Saturday Oct. 1, 2011. (Kent Porter / Press Democrat) 2011

Registration will get in full swing next week for Levi Leipheimer's much-anticipated GranFondo 2012. Building on the momentum of the past three years, this event promises to be even more spectacular and successful.

Contributions to our community and to participants are both impactful in dollars as well as in the unquantifiable — rich, life experiences.

With growth, there is both the promise of opportunities and the possibilities of pitfalls. On the GranFondo, accidents are a very real issue for participants. What can we do to lower those risks? Levi and event managers say safety is a key concern. I believe them and, as a casualty of last year's ride, I offer some real solution.

2011 Levi Leipheimer King Ridge GranFondo

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First, my 2011 GranFondo experience: I had just crested Graton Road at Harrison Grade mid-morning and could see Occidental. I was having a boatload of fun in my first GranFondo. From somewhere behind me, a distinct command, "Move over, buddy" was heard. Was he talking to me or other riders nearby? For safety, I had been riding the entire distance on the far right edge of the road. Moving to the right at that point would have taken me off the road completely. Within a moment, I was struck from behind and went down. I remember little after that. The next several hours are a blur of images — paramedics over me, the ambulance ride, MRI, X-rays and the ever-present pain.

The results: a concussion, a punctured lung and seven broken ribs.

Four weeks later: The lung was OK, the concussion subsided and my ribs were healing yet very sore. Today, I am happy to be able to say all of this.

I am 73 years old. Very fit sure, but still 73. A marathon runner into my 40s, I managed to stay fit over the years, although nothing grabbed me with a passion like cycling eventually did a few years ago.

<NO1>The pure joy of cycling the thousands of miles in Sonoma County was always exquisite. <NO>My first organized ride, the GranFondo, stood as a beacon of encouragement and wonderment.

The day after the accident, Levi, his wife, Odessa Gunn, and race manager Carlos Perez visited me. Their visit confirmed for me their commitment to improving the safety of the GranFondo. We discussed my injuries, and we talked about the concepts of a "race" versus a "ride." They assured me that the GranFondo is not a race. It is a ride. Safety is promoted. Many marshals are on the course monitoring safety.

A few weeks later I received the ride's follow-up newsletter complete with photos, well deserved acknowledgments for volunteers — and the timed results.


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