Maureen and I rode 42mi and climbed 3,000ft with the who's who of US cycling. It was the inaugural Bottega Gran Fondo hosted by Chef Michael Chiarello. We registered on Saturday and met a few of the celebrities... fun to see the pro bikers being sous-chefs to some famous chefs.
What a day of riding, eating and drinking. We started at 8am from Yountville. Maureen and I were on Dave Zabriskie's team (10 people per team) and so we had some time to hang out with him before the ride. I was able to get some pictures with George Hincapie and Bob Roll also before we rolled out of Yountville.
We had an easy ride through Rutherford to Frog's Leap winery, where we had the first feeding zone. Breakfast Spring Rolls and Breakfast bars. Noticed that Levi Leipheimer was also on the ride, and was able to photo bomb a picture with him :-)
Then we hit the road up the Silverado Trail towards Howell Mountain Road... the start of the big climb of the day. I was able to hang with DZ for the first bit of the climb, but he has a serious problem riding behind anyone. He was relentless and just kept increasing the pace. I dropped. But it started me well on the climb, so the rest of the climb felt great (even though it was a significantly faster pace than I was used to...) We connected back onto Deer Park road and then headed up further towards the town of Angwin. Some more climbing from there and a killer of a climb up to the top of Outpost Winery where we had the second feeding zone. This was the top of the climb and people were looking quite a bit more tired. Most of the celebrity cyclists were still up there when I arrived, so I didn't feel too bad. Lobster Rolls, Grilled Nutella Paninis... wow. Maureen did great, and although we split up after the first feeding zone, I was able to see her make the last climb on my way down. Very proud of her.
Buletted down Deer Park road (max speed 44mph) and then hit the Silverado Trail southwards again back towards Yountville. Unfortunately I had a flat so I had to leave my group and change my tube. The mechanics stopped by and helped me get on the road very quickly. However, I was alone on the Trail against a wind, so it sucked quite a bit of energy out of me. I couldn't catch my team again, so solo-ed towards Mumm Vineyards, where we had our third feeding station! Risotto balls, Truffle chips, Bell Pepper Crostinis.
Then headed out for the last 5 miles or so back to Yountville. I was contemplating riding a bit further, but it was not that much fun riding against the wind all alone, and all the 75-milers were already gone by that time, so I decided to stick to the 40 mile ride and head back to Yountville.
Maureen arrived later in a group with amazing cyclist Robin Farina (2011 National US Road Race Champion). Check out her bio here.
We had a fantastic feast at Bottega... 3 long 100-person tables with some good wine and fantastic food. Had the chance to hang with the pro cyclists some more, got some signatures, and snapped a few more pictures. What a fantastic event.