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MESSAGE FROM LEVI: County shined for cycling celebration

  • Levi Leipheimer of Santa Rosa acknowledges over 7500 bicycle riders at the start of his King Ridge Granfondo, Saturday Oct. 1, 2011 at Finley Park in Santa Rosa. (Kent Porter / Press Democrat) 2011

Last Saturday saw the third running of my namesake cycling event, Levi Leipheimer's King Ridge GranFondo.

It's the most exciting day of my year, and our event was a huge success this time around. We owe much of that success to the people who gave their time and expertise to ensure a smooth, safe operation for 7,500 visiting riders from down the street and around the world, in addition to another 12,000 attendees at our post-ride FondoSonoma Festival. We had the support of nearly a 1,000 volunteers, 45 California Highway Patrol officers, more than 50 support vehicles (including three school buses), more than 10 volunteer fire departments, 10 on-course ambulances, 130 on-bike marshals and more than 20 on-bike trauma doctors.

We owe these people a deep and sincere thanks for all they do, especially in the rainy, cold conditions out on King Ridge that day. Thanks to them, we not only had a hugely successful event, but we had a minimal number of injuries. The few injuries we had were not life-threatening, and I was able to wish them a speedy recovery before they were discharged from the hospital.

2011 Levi Leipheimer King Ridge GranFondo

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I also want to thank the people of Sonoma County for their patience in dealing with the presence of such a large number of cyclists on the road that day. Our team worked hard to make sure that any road closures were as brief as possible and that all impacts were communicated to the communities that were affected. Nevertheless, I'm happy that everyone was very accommodating about any inconvenience the GranFondo may have caused and very much appreciate everyone's composure behind the wheel.

Our riders bring a lot to the event as well. It's easy to get overly competitive around so many talented cyclists on such a challenging course, but our riders demonstrated a strong sense of sportsmanship and fun out on the course, keeping things safe and civil. It's great to push oneself while riding, but it's greater still to not let that drive poor decisions or bad judgment from the saddle.

This ride means so much to me, not only because it's a great time with so many people but because of what it means to our community. The money raised from the GranFondo will go directly to organizations such as Forget Me Not Farm and LIVESTRONG, rural schools and volunteer fire departments along the GranFondo route and our own suite of local, bicycle-related projects.

Beyond that, hosting so many visitors in our beautiful county has myriad benefits for business and tourism, all under the banner of a healthy, environmentally friendly, family-centric activity such as cycling.

I've always wanted to give back to a place that has made me the cyclist I am. I'm proud of the GranFondo, but I'm prouder still of the community it serves.

<i>Levi Leipheimer is a professional road cyclist and a resident of Santa Rosa. He founded the King Ridge GranFondo in 2009.</i>


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