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GranFondo report from Bill Carroll

Wednesday, October 08, 2014 1:36 PM | Bill Oetinger (Administrator)

Many of our SRCC members will have had some experience of the 2014 Levi's King Ridge GranFondo, either riding it or working at a rest stop (including the SRCC-managed and staffed lunch stop on Meyers Grade). So far, the following report from Bill Carroll is the only one we have received about the event…

The GranFondo, in which we ask: how little training can you do and still ride a challenging century?  

There was a post yesterday about how much fun it is to be a part of this event. I would second that notion, and encourage anyone who has not ridden LGF, to sign up for next year. It is a blast being a part of this huge cycling event. There is really nothing like lining up with 7000 other cycling enthusiasts for a mass start, excitement (anxiety?) nearly palpable, rolling out on closed city streets with CHP controlling every intersection and people on the roadside cheering. They're actually cheering an enormous bolus of cyclists riding down closed city streets. It just doesn't happen that often (exactly one time per year).

I signed up to be a marshal for the third consecutive year (though I couldn't ride last year). Marshals pick a partner of similar ability; this year I was with Tom Duckett, another physician. We are both members of VeloMed, a cycling club consisting of doctors, nurses, EMTs and other medical professionals, with the goal being to provide medical assistance when needed at cycling events. There must have been at least 30 VeloMed members riding as marshals this year. This year there were several accidents where we assisted.

Marshals are positioned in pairs in front of the start. We are released intermittently to disperse through the peleton as riders roll by. Tom and I were in the last quarter released, meaning we didn't actually start until about 25 minutes after the official start. Think being at the back for Bay to Breakers. Consequently, we were interspersed with many medio and piccalo riders, who tended to be slower. Being in this position can make you a little nervous. Even though the roads are closed, there is little room to maneuver, and you have to be careful.  CHP closes the roads essentially all the way to the intersection of Sullivan and Graton, but even beyond that they are holding cars at almost all intersections. It was cool to see riders filling most of Occidental Hwy on the rise to 116, even if it was unwise for so many to be left of yellow.

In Monte Rio the ride thins considerably as the medio riders divert to Duncans Mills, and the fondo continues on River to Cazadero. You have to be out of this rest stop by 1030, otherwise you must divert up Fort Ross Road and short the course by 17 miles. Tom and I were rolling out at 1025. I was surprised it was so late, since those are 33 easy miles. But when you start at the back, it just takes awhile to get there.
King Ridge is where the biggest separation is, though there are still many hundreds of riders on it. The climb to the first summit saw many walkers, and many more resting mid climb. That pattern repeated through the day on all of the steep climbs.
Two miles south of Tin Barn on King Ridge, Tom and I came upon a rider down at the edge of the road. Two physician riders (not course marshals or VeloMed) were on the scene, as were two Red Cross volunteers. Two marshals were there too, controlling the riders, getting them to slow. A 50 year old man hit a pot hole on a shaded descent and endo'd. He remained conscious and was alert and appropriate throughout. Tom and I relieved the two physicians and the two marshals and stayed on the scene for 40 minutes until an EMT got there. The rider had a bad avulsion on his forehead, a fracture dislocation of his finger and bad avulsion on his right knee. No evidence of spinal injury but we kept him flat on his back until the spine board was there. He got airlifted out form the King Ridge rest stop. 
That put us at the absolute back of the Gran riders. We rode along for the remainder of King Ridge with a group from Kent, England including young 11 year old Johnnie, who looked as though he was done for the day.  He kept his spirits up and really impressed us with his fortitude. He said (imagine a high-class English accent) "You really should try to keep these roads in proper condition." I think he sagged in from the RS.
At lunch stop (kudos again to SRCC for an incredibly smoothly running RS), I chatted with Doug Simon about the wisdom of putting 7000 riders, 40% of whom have never ridden even one mile of the route, on these narrow, rutted, steep roads. But, despite the accidents, Jonathan Lee reported that this was one of the safest fondos ever.
In some ways LGF is like being part of TT; in other ways, it's completely different. Like the TT, it is a major cycling event in Sonoma County that really tests participants. Unlike TT, many of the riders are completely unfamiliar with the roads they are about to set out upon. Consequently, many are ill prepared for the challenge they are embarking on. But the elation they feel when they finish---and you can see it at the end---is the same.

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