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Bicycling for a Cause: Palo Alto Echelon Gran Fondo

Hundreds rode through Palo Alto to raise money for their favorite charity.

A normally serene Saturday morning in downtown Palo Alto was transformed by a sea of bicycles, techno music, and a wealth of energy as people from across the Bay Area woke up early to raise money for their favorite causes.

Over 600 people participated in Palo Alto's first Echelon Gran Fondo, an event that raised thousands of dollars for charities. The scenic bicycling loop began near city hall in downtown Palo Alto and went through Portola Valley, Woodside, and at its furthest, onto U.S. Highway 1 near Butano State Park.

Riders could choose from a 60, 80, or 95-mile Gran Fondo – which means “big ride” in Italian-- although the vast majority of the helmeted, Spandex-clad athletes chose the 95-mile track.

San Francisco resident Harry Ault, was a part of a team that fundraised over $10,000 for the Make-A-Wish Foundation, a non-profit that raises money for children with life-threatening illnesses like leukemia and cancer. The money goes towards making a child's dream of going to special place - like Disneyland - or meeting a celebrity come true, said Ault.

Ault and 15 others who are all part of an amateur racing team, had a personal reason for choosing the Make-A-Wish foundation. “We had a former team member who had a brain tumor who passed away recently,” said Ault.  

Three-time Tour de France champion Greg LeMond, who started his career in Palo Alto, biked and supported the event, as did mayor Sid Espinosa.

After the early morning event, people could still raise funds by walking, running, or biking shorter distances for their charities. At noon, families could join in by attending the "Taste of Palo Alto" festival which featured 15 restaurants.

jim sullivan September 18, 2011 at 04:37 PM
A great BIG Thanks to all the Volunteers that made this event as seamless as satin. Another Big Bicyclist High 5 to the folks in cars that were patient as this grand Peleton pedaled out+about.
Mark Weiss September 18, 2011 at 05:23 PM
Although I bashed this event on another site I had a good time at the festivities and hope the "wheels can be trued" metaphorically for the event to be brought back for year two in Palo Alto next year. My sources said there were 450 riders compared to 6,000 for a similar event concept yearly in Santa Rosa. The nice lady from Sierra Nevada Brewing said they brought 12 kegs of beer but only sold six. She said 20 kegs for them was a good event and that a Phish concert once sold 200 kegs. I think the music could be better. Why have brand name restaurants -- Coupa, Old Pro, Pasta ? -- but not have name bands? I brought Mother Hips and Mermen for example to successive Chronicle Classic city events in previous years. Music was the week link -- although I got a kick out of Tyler Walton and Dave something of Undercover Band I think et al doing "Semi-Charmed Life" which was co-written by Gunn alum Steve Jenkins of Third Eye Blind. (although it is a song about crystal meth...) I said hello to some friends and neighbors, got a picture of our mayor Sid Espinosa in all black Spandex posing with our black Cocker Frida, and brainstormed with Russ Cohen of BID and Sherleen Eng of Crowne Plaza about upcoming potential music events. My idea of biking unfortunately these days is riding 2 miles from Oak Creek to Stanford Park Hotel, eating 3,000 calories, then writing about it for Patch.
Michael Sexton September 18, 2011 at 07:18 PM
As Technical Director for the Palo Alto Gran Fondo, I would like to thank the volunteers for the event. Many of the volunteers at the expo and out on course came from Palo Alto High School and worked tirelessly throughout the event. Additionally, MyPuente.org and the Catholic Worker's House HMBay volunteers did a fantastic job out on course. There were those who got up very early and those that stay well past the finish to help with the less glamorous jobs necessary to putting on a successful event. I am encouraged by the hard work ethic and enthusiasm of all of these people. Along with these volunteers, I would like to acknowledge the planning efforts of the City of Palo Alto, the City Planning and Traffic department and the Palo Alto Police whose professionalism kept this event safe and efficient. Finally, I would like to thank the residents of Palo Alto, the residents of Woodside and Pescadero, and the downtown businesses of Palo Alto for their patience and cooperation. I can only hope that this event added to the pleasure of living, working and playing in the City. Thank you again for an enjoyable and successful event.

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