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With no dramatic event or charismatic hero, Santa Rosa has become sport's epicenter

  • 10/1/2009:A9: Paul Klassen of Santa Rosa zooms down Hauser Bridge Road on Wednesday as he traces the GranFondo route over King Ridge. Klassen will be among the participants in Saturday's 103-mile King Ridge GranFondo.

    PC: Paul Klassen of Santa Rosa zooms down Hauser Bridge Road, Wednesday September 30, 2009 as he traces the GranFondo route over King Ridge. After his 103 mile ride on Wednesday, Klassen will participate in Saturday's King Ridge GranFondo, pedaling another 103 miles. (Kent Porter / Press Democrat) 2009

They stand alone, unchallenged, the nationally recognized pillars of Sonoma County, rising up above all others, the three identifying symbols of the area, known far and wide: wine, motorsports and, the most recent construction, seemingly out of nowhere, cycling.

It?s been a remarkable emergence for cycling inasmuch as it has been done without a defining moment, without a celebrity showman out front, without the usual pomp and circumstance that announces the arrival of something undeniably transcendent. But it is here, both of its wheels firmly planted on terra firma as it were, with only one anecdote necessary to reveal that.

Two years ago Santa Rosa sports attorney Don Winkle was taking a phone call from a lawyer in Boulder, Colo.

Tour of California Stage 1

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Boulder fancies itself as the cycling center of the United States. And the reason for the call had nothing to do with the sport. Nonetheless ...

Remembered Winkle, ?The first words out of this guy?s mouth were: ?So I am calling some wannabe sports attorney from some town that wants to take over cycling.? I said to myself, ?Wow, we got Boulder sweating. We must be doing something right.?

Jealousy spawns cryptic introductions and two years later that same intro might find a few R-rated additions acknowledging that maybe Santa Rosa, not Boulder, is now the American center of cycling. It is not a reach to write that opinion or, for that matter, to claim it.

?Boulder has about nine great rides and you can only ride there about six months a year,? said Winkle, 50, an everyday cyclist. ?We (Sonoma County) have hundreds and you can ride year-round.?

How Santa Rosa and Sonoma County rose to such prominence might seem to the uninitiated as a meteorite arriving out of nowhere, and there?s some validity to that as the sport does not have the national cachet of football, basketball or baseball. Even so, the hills and forests and ocean vistas and sweeping panoramas weren?t discovered in the last year or two. Nor have bicycles arrived at about the same time as Twitter. For that matter, the urge to compete is hardly a recent phenomenon.

So what changed? And how did it change? The answer to both questions leads to a conclusion that appears as a destiny.

That cycling in Sonoma County, and this may appear outlandish, is just starting to gain traction. Yes, just starting, for even a brighter and more accomplished future is in the offing.


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