The Hammer and I have been looking at the 2013 calendar a lot, lately. Trying to figure out what we’d like to do this year, versus what would be fun to do this year, if we have the time and money and everything works out.
And then there are a few events that we are absolutely, positively going to do. This year, next year, and the year after that. Events that we do every year and plan to, for as long as we are able to ride. The Rockwell Relay: Moab to St. George. The Crusher in the Tushars. The Leadville 100.
And, above all: Levi’s GranFondo.
It’s quite simply our favorite event. And not just because of the ride (although the ride is pretty outstanding). It’s everything that goes on around it. And before it. And after it. And, in fact, during it.
It’s the gold standard of GranFondos. Ask anyone who’s been there.
And this year, someone who donates in the Grand Slam for Zambia 2 (This Time It’s Personal) is going to get to see it all, on Levi’s dime.
And while a ticket to ride in Levi’s GranFondo would be an awesome prize on its own merit, this is so much more. This prize is a full-on freaking all-event VIP Pass.
Let’s break it down, shall we?
Airfare and Hotel
First off, the winner (you, I hope) will get airfare and hotel taken care of (if you’re outside the US, you’ll need to take care of your own travel into the US). You’ll want to make sure you bring several days’-worth of underwear and jerseys, though, because you’ll be arriving on Thursday (October 3, 2013), and will be enjoying the full-on awesomeness all the way ’til you go home on Sunday (October 6).
Here’s what you’re going to be doing
Thursday Night: Festa del Fondo
Bring something nice to wear, because you’ll be having dinner with Levi, Odessa, and a a pretty small group of other people who are nearly as awesome as you are. You’ll have an incredible dinner, a great chance to meet Levi, and an opportunity to bid in an auction for the charities supported by Levi’s GranFondo.
And I have an idea that maybe — since I’ll be there too, unless Levi’s bodyguard sees through my disguise — this might be a perfect opportunity for us to finally outnumber Levi and put him in a headlock, for once.
Hey, it could happen, you know.
Friday: VIP Ride
The next day, after you’ve slept off the Festa, you’ll get to join Levi and some friends in a casual ride around the outskirts of Santa Rosa. I’ve gone on this ride once before, and it’s fun, watching Levi and Odessa work the group, taking time to talk with everyone on the ride, and being totally cool about it when I tried (unsuccessfully, but not for lack of trying) to get everyone to start singing sea shanties.
The best part of the ride was when we stopped by the Forget Me Not Farm, which is the charity Odessa puts her time and heart into (the farm serves the dual purposes of giving a home to animals that otherwise might not have one, and to give children who have suffered abuse a chance to experience a loving, non-threatening relationship).
I wouldn’t be at all surprised if they swing by there again. In which case you’ll have the opportunity to get a picture of you and Levi. Together with a cow.
And then you can make a big framed print of it and explain how awesome that actually is to all your friends.
Saturday, Very Early: The Front of the Line
One of the most astounding things about Levi’s GranFondo is the sheer number of people in it. More than 7,000 riders all line up, which means the line goes back for blocks and blocks and blocks.
But not for you, because you — along with the other VIPs — will go straight to the front of the line, where you’ll get to say hi to famous people like Chuck Ibis, and Levi, and Patrick Dempsey, and me. Especially me, because otherwise I’ll just be standing around there, wondering how come I’m the only one there with a muffin top.
The Ride and the Food During the Ride
The GranFondo is a big ride (you’re also welcome to do the medium- or short-distance versions of the course if that’s more your style), but every year I do it, I find myself forgetting about the distance, because the course is just so beautiful.
You ride through redwoods. And along the coast. And by vineyards. And up and down narrow forested roads. It is not a ride where you should spend any time at all staring at the pavement. It’s a heads-up, looking-around, smelling-the-forest, smelling-the-sea-air, stopping-and-taking-photos kind of ride.
Hey, you should check out the video I made of the ride a couple years ago:
And there are great aid stations along the route. Really, “great” is kind of playing down how good they are. We’re talking deli-quality sandwiches. An aid station by the ocean. Oreos and Nutter Butters.
As well as stuff that people who eschew those kinds of things will still enjoy.
Hey, it’s a rolling buffet and snack bar.
After the Ride: The Festival
Even with the great food along the route, you’ll finish the ride hungry. Furthermore, you’ll finish it tired. But save some energy, because you’re going to want to stick around at the festival going on at the finish line. Everyone has access to the free food, drink and music, and that’s an awesome thing on its own.
But you’ll have a pass to the VIP tent, where you can lounge, drink, eat, and hobnob to your heart’s content.
And if you’re like me, you’ll probably push right past that place of “content” and eat yourself into a full-on stupor.
As If That’s Not Enough
There will be a lot of people who ride in Levi’s GranFondo in 2013. Like, 7,500 of us. There will even be a few people who get to come to all the VIP events. But only the person who wins the Levi’s GranFondo grand prize in the Grand Slam 2 contest will get this:
Yep, that’s Levi’s jersey — one he wore in the 2012 Tour de France. It’ll be signed, and comes with his race numbers.
Which moves this prize from the “outrageously cool and I can’t believe I won it” category into the “totally one of a kind” category.
How and Why to Enter
So I’ve been wondering lately: what would it take to make a fundraiser contest so freakishly compelling that nobody would want to not be part of it? Would it take a bunch of trips to Moab as prizes? A dream mountain bike? A fistful of gift certificates to Twin Six? A sweet commuter bike? A dream road bike?
Would it take a trip to spend a week at a luxury resort, riding with Patrick Dempsey and Tom Danielson?
Or would it take this VIP package to the best GranFondo in America, with a signed TdF jersey and the race numbers as a kicker?
I think I’m getting pretty close to that irresistible fundraiser, don’t you?
So why do you think there are so many amazing prizes? Why do you think so many companies and people are stepping up to the plate and knocking it out of the park, prize-wise? I’ll tell you why: it’s because what World Bicycle Relief is doing is important, and good, and well-thought-out. So good companies — and good people, like Levi and Tom and Patrick (and I’m not even close to done revealing new prizes, by the way) — are surpassing my wildest dreams in donating amazing prizes, in the hopes that good people like you will say to yourselves, “Wow. The quantity and quality of this contest is making my eyes glaze over with sheer astonishment at the awesomeness of it all. I can’t help myself; I will donate with enthusiasm and alacrity!”
Yeah, that’s how I imagine your inner monologue. Strange, huh?
Donate any amount. For every $5 you donate, you get another chance in my magic spreadsheet, which is what an impartial third person will use for drawing prizes (although you get bonus chances if you donate $134+ — enough to buy a whole bike for a child in Zambia.)
Yep, it’s that easy. The contest goes ’til December 24 (Christmas Eve), at which point we’ll start drawing for prizes. So go donate now.
And (hopefully) Levi and I will see you in Santa Rosa this October.