Waking up before sunrise in San Francisco is magical. The customary hustle and bustle of commuters, tourists and cable cars gives way to a remarkable peacefulness as the morning fog lifts from the Bay. This was the idyllic setting that welcomed us as we began our point-to-point ride from Fisherman’s Wharf to Sonoma County.
Within minutes, we were crossing the Golden Gate Bridge, which was beginning to emit its characteristic orange glow with the rising sun. The traffic going the opposite direction reminded us how lucky we were to be on vacation and on our bikes. And we had a full day of beautiful riding ahead of us.
We rode north along the coast on Scenic Highway # 1 and we pretty much had the whole road to ourselves.
Chilled white wine went well with our picnic lunch and fresh oysters at Hog’s Oyster Farm in Tomales Bay
A bit more riding followed after lunch. We hopped in the support van when we had our fill and drove the rest of the way to our hotel in Santa Rosa’s historic Railroad Square. This would be home for the next three nights and a quick scout of the neighbourhood confirmed that it had all the essentials – including a cozy coffee shop and a well-stocked whisky bar.
Friday started with GranFondo check-in and some race prep. Barry Bonds happened to be there doing the same thing. In the afternoon, we rode a light vine & hops circuit that included a wine tasting at DeLoach Vineyards and a famous ‘Pliny’ at Russian River Brewing. We may have stood out in our spandex shorts, but with a cold pint in our hands, we all shared something in common with the locals in the bar.
The anticipation and excitement for the big day continued over dinner. We filled up with a big, pre-race pasta dinner in an Italian restaurant full of riders.
The feeling at the start line with thousands of others was euphoric. We had a great footprint up near the front and got to know a few of the fellow riders around us as we counted down to the start.
The thirteen of us rode four different routes. One in the 30 mile Piccolo, two in the 60 mile Medio and the rest in the Gran. There was lots to talk about at the finish festival but the most debated post-race topic was which Gran course was harder – the 102 mile classic route or the 98 mile Willow Creek route with an insanely steep gravel climb.
Lots of banter, lots of celebration and lots of wine over dinner that night. It was a wonderful group and a phenomenal trip.
California Wine Country is a joy to pedal, whatever your expectations. Join us next fall for what will be some of your best times, both on and off your bike.