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.

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.

Without equivocation, timed results by event, by age group, etc. heralds competition, racing, whether it be competition with one's self or against others. Competing by its very nature is contrary to being safe.

I assert that by the specific action of including timed results, a disconnect is created between what is being promoted (a safe ride) and what is tacitly being encouraged (racing involving risk).

Suggestion for 2012: Have the GranFondo without times. Wear a watch if you want an unofficial time. This one change will eliminate the incentive to compete. It will help take the race out of the ride.

Some will denigrate this change; others will embrace it. Too drastic? Choose your mode — race or ride. Racers leaving much earlier would be timed and could compete. Riders will happily follow an hour later. And relax.

Promoting a ride while encouraging racing is incompatible. Did my "Move over, buddy" racer from last year's event focus too much on the clock while I merely rode? Possibly.

I began riding again in mid-December. The joy of riding is still with me, even though I am at about 80 percent strength since the day of the accident. Should I register for the upcoming GranFondo? I am admittedly shy about tangling with racers. But I'd sure love to ride it. Certainly this year's participants should have the opportunity to do one or the other.

[END_CREDIT_0]Eldon Killian lives in Petaluma.