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Celebrity participants add to GranFondo wow factor

  • on Friday, 9 28, 2012. Actor Patrick Dempsey finishes off a doughnut during the GranDonut Race at the Finley Center in Santa Rosa, Friday Sept. 28, 2012. Riders had to eat doughnuts every time they took a lap on a small bike. The proceeds of the event go to local and national charities. (Kent Porter / Press Democrat) 2012

Barry Bonds, yes, that Barry Bonds, is headlining a list of celebrities that include TV stars, Olympic medalists and professional athletes who will take part Saturday in Levi's GranFondo.

Being able to rub elbows with Bonds, TV star Patrick Dempsey and the other celebrities is not a marketing tool, said Greg Fisher, marketing director of Bike Monkey, which is organizing the event.

They've been drawn to the Levi Leipheimer King Ridge GranFondo for the same reason 7,500 others are: the roads themselves.

The GranDonut

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"The area is absolutely stunning. The landscape and the route is so challenging, I look forward to it every year," said Dempsey, who is taking part in the ride for the third time.

Those roads take riders through redwoods and vineyards, past sweeping views of the Pacific Ocean and up over King Ridge and Coleman Valley roads, challenging climbs for which no publicist or entourage can provide protection.

"Cycling is a great equalizer," Fisher said. "Some of these guys may seem distant. They are characters on the screen, maybe you see them in a magazine. But on a bike they are working as hard as you are, maybe harder. There is this great equalizing effect there."

Still, there is a cool factor in saying you lined up alongside Dempsey or actor Mark-Paul Gosselaar or two-time Olympic gold medal winner Kristin Armstrong.

"There are so many levels of awe," said Raissa de la Rosa, Santa Rosa economic development specialist. "Imagine being a woman rider and being able to say &‘I hung with Kristin Armstrong.'"

Their presence adds an air of legitimacy to the event, she said.

"Everyone likes a star," de la Rosa said. "And if you are into cycling and know that Levi and so many of the world's top cyclists train here, even if you are stargazing at the roads, it is pretty cool."


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