Countdown to #LeviGF, 8 Days

It’s time to start planning. Obviously, the hotel is booked, the registration is paid, the bike is prepped the legs are…well there…but now it’s time for the details. Who is going to bring the beer? What are we going to eat? What time will we leave? Will we ride the gravel section?

It’s actually that last question I keep trying to answer – some people think I should talk to Sam about it.

Gravel sounds scary (I’m pretty sure it makes my wife nervous) but having ridden Levi’s Gran Fondo the first year when gravel wasn’t so much an option as it was “the way” I can say that it doesn’t make me all that nervous. No, I figure the gravel will be less crowded and, since Willow Creek Road bypasses a large section of Highway 1, more pleasant (you can read that as saying there will be fewer cars).

I’ve been googling Willow Creek Road trying to get a feel for how long the “dirt” section is and really haven’t found much except for the little offered at the Fondo page and this tidbit in an article on cycling in Sonoma County (links to PDF):

When I descended Coleman Valley Road to the coast, he says I could have gone up Highway 1 for a spell before turning right onto Willow Creek Road, which features an 11-mile climb away from the coast that loops back to Coleman Valley just outside Occidental. The route becomes a dirt road at one point but is pretty smooth and is popular with road cyclists, Keene says.

I thought about tweeting @levisgranfondo to ask for some more detail, but those guys are probably busy.

There’s also Coleman Valley Road to consider, my enemy. This was the year I was going to vanquish the beast! Though, unlike many others I saw, I’ve never had to dismount and walk my bike up Coleman Valley Road it has always lead me to question my commitment to cycling up hill – I think the first year I said something like, “I never want to do that again,” at the top.

I’m ready to do more, at least a little, than just survive Coleman Valley Road.

But, Willow Creek Road, which doesn’t appear to be a significantly easier option, bypasses the beast and robs me of the opportunity to yell something profane at the summit of the Coleman Valley Road Climb.

What to do?

If you have an opinion drop it in the comments (they’re moderated, but as long as you aren’t a jerk or SPAM I’ll approve it).


  1. #1 by Sam on September 23, 2011 - 8:59 am

    I’ve been wondering about the gravel option, too. Mostly, I’ve been thinking I’ll do it. There are a few things to consider, though.

    First, I will miss the Coleman Valley climb. Just the climb, though. The top of the ridge is not much fun, and it was windy and bleak in the past two years. But the climb is epic, and I’ll miss it if we don’t do it.

    Secondly, I don’t think the gravel will be less crowded – I think it will be more crowded. And from what I’ve read, there are portions of the road which are in really bad condition. It’s not the gravel you have to fear; it’s the massive craters in the tarmac later on.

    Finally – and this is psychological – the gravel option returns riders to the start in just under 100 miles. So it’s not a century. Will I care on the day? Of course not. In fact, I’ll be thrilled to shave off a few miles after six hours in the saddle, but still, if it’s not 100 miles, it’s not a century…

    But mostly I’m thinking I’ll ride the gravel option. For a change.

    • #2 by Michael on September 23, 2011 - 9:27 am

      Presumably we’ll ride the same route…

      I figure with the ride to and from the Hotel the 99 mile thing won’t be a big deal.

      Coleman Valley Road, at least the west side of it, is a miserable place, isn’t it? Plus, I think the “different” route is what has me leaning toward gravel.

      You really think it will be more crowded?

      • #3 by Sam on September 23, 2011 - 9:36 am

        I think it’ll be pretty rammed on the gravel, since most riders – at that stage of the ride – will be tired enough to not want the spectre of Coleman Valley looming ahead. Also, LGF staff have been heavily promoting the gravel, and I think enough people will be curious to give it a shot. Of course, there basically won’t be any cars at all, which will make it feel less squirrely, and who knows, maybe it’s a pretty wide pathway and can accomodate plenty of bikes, but yeah, I think it’ll feel close on Willow Creek.

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