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.