Levi’s Gran Fondo

Team power couple Brad and Kortney McCoy made the trip up to Santa Rosa for the 2011 Leve’s Gran Fondo. This was their second year completing the event – Brad the 100 and Kortney rode the 65. The event has an amazing reputation so I wanted to learn more! Team members Norm Carter and Zach Thorp also joined the event. Here is a brief event report from both of them.

Q: You both did Levi’s Gran Fondo in 2010, what were your expectations going into it this year?

Kortney: For one thing I knew that they had added another 1500 riders so you are literally in a SEA of cyclists which is cool, however, based on 2010 I knew it would take about 10 minutes just to get across the start line and after that you are still slow rolling for a little while. I did place myself a little higher in the line-up so it took a little less time and the riders I was starting with were a little more anxious to get a quick start.

Brad: Finish sub 6 hrs

Q: Brad last year I heard you had a flat or two, were you able to stay issue free this year? 

Yeah, last year was a flat fest with a total of 4. You know what they about karma…after receiving my fair share of ridicule from Norm (Carter) prior to the ride this year about the flats from last year, he flatted in the EXACT same location that I got my first flat last year. So, I rode on, not in spite but just simply because it was only a matter of time until they (Zach & Norm) would bridge the gap. As I rode on up the mountain, past the scene of the flat, this random guy rides up next to me and says: “hey, do you know those guys back down the road wearing Redlands kits?” so I answered and then he says: “funny, I saw those guys with a flat in the exact same location a year ago.”

Q: I have heard awesome things about the event. What drew you to take part? And to go back and do it again?

Kortney: Last year it was pretty much, hey there’s this ride in Santa Rosa and do you want to do it too? Then I went and did it and during the ride, Patrick Dempsey aka Dr. McDreamy came riding up right next to me and started chatting. Obviously I couldn’t let him down again this year! :) All joking aside it is a really well supported and attended ride, there is amazing scenery, plenty of climbing to make the ride a challenge and the weather is generally pretty nice too making for just a really beautiful ride.

Brad: It’s a pretty epic ride, really. Though they advertise the century as something like 7,000+ vertical gain, when I finished this year, another rider with a GPS said he had something like 9,000+ vertical gain, it’s steep and the scenery is incredible. Not to mention there are very few motorists except maybe the stretch along the coast.

Q: Did other teammates join you on this adventure? 

Kortney: I defer to Brad on this one. I rode by myself in the 65 mile distance but there were a few others doing the 100 mile.

Brad: Zach Thorp, Norm Carter & I saw some other guy in a Redlands kit I didn’t recognize.

Brad enjoying the awesome scenery!

Q: Did you train specifically for this event? The Fondo boasts a lot of climbing at pretty steep grades, how did you get ready for that? 

Brad: A year ago (2010 fondo) I told Zach I was going to ride Smiley Rd. a bunch in preparation because I heard the climbs were just like that. Zach said “no, that’s a waste, there’s nothing like that” so I didn’t ride Smiley more than once or twice. Much to my chagrin, that’s exactly what the climbs were like. So, this year, I knew better BUT still didn’t ride anything that steep, which I should have, but I did do Oak Glen & Forest Falls quite a bit.

Q: Kortney – you completed a triathlon just a few weeks prior to the fondo. How did that go? Did that help prepare you for the Fondo as well?

I completed the Malibu Nautica International Distance Triathlon 2 weeks before the fondo. It was a 1.5k Swim, 40k ride and 10k Run. It was my second year doing this event and I really wanted to complete it in under 3 hours. I actually started working with a trainer and was able to meet my goal 2hr 56 minutes! The time I put in getting ready for the try really helped with my strength for the ride. I felt ready to tackle the climbs, I just put in a couple of longer distance rides in those two weeks between because I had been restricting my riding to about an hour/ride getting ready for the tri. Last year during the Fondo I had to *gasp* walk on one of the climbs that is lovingly referred to as “the wall.” This year my only goal was not to have to walk again and I did it! I also beat last years time by about an hour and twenty minutes so that felt pretty good too.


Kortney super pumped about finishing her tri!

Q:  I would ask for a highlight but I am sure you have many so lets narrow it down to 3 each…

Kortney: Conquering “The Wall.” Hearing “Follow that girl!” When I got tired of poking along behind some old dude….although sadly in the shorter routes the concept of “pace line” seems to be lost a bit. And a lot of celebrities and pro-riders attending – it’s fun to try to keep an eye out for them on the course.

Brad: We rode with Levi, Jason McCartney and a small group of others along the coastal section of the ride…

Norm and Zach riding with some of the big boys.

Q: In 3 sentences or less, convince me to go ride Levi’s Gran Fondo next year! 

Kortney:  At first it seems annoying to join 7500 other cyclists on a ride but there is such an incredible spirit of camaraderie with a light touch of competition in the air. It is a beautiful and challenging ride where there is a chance of riding alongside professional or celebrity riders. Finally, the free finish line meal options are the BEST I’ve ever seen at any sports event!

Brad: There is nothing like it around here in So Cal…totally worth the drive up there. I would only add if you can, stay up there longer and ride Napa Valley too.

Thank you Brad and Kortney for sharing your adventure with us!


Norm Carter riding in the group