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AEG organizing pair of grand fondos to trace Tour of California stages

Recreational cyclists and amateur racers planning out their 2010 event calendars may want to reserve two weekends in April as an opportunity to get a firsthand experience on the routes of two stages of next year’s Amgen Tour of California.

Leipheimer's ride capped out at 3500.
Leipheimer's ride capped out at 3500.

Event owner AEG Sports is organizing a pair of grand fondo events, one in Northern California and one in Southern California, which will cover the same roads the pro field will compete upon during the May 16-23 UCI stage race.

Existing in a space between a sanctioned race and a charity ride, gran fondos are popular in Europe, often attracting more than 10,000 riders, including retired pros, amateur racers and recreational cyclists. These events have recently grown in popularity in the U.S. In October Levi Leipheimer hosted a successful gran fondo event in Santa Rosa, California, that capped its 3,500-participant maximum. A new company, Centurion Cycling, is planning and organizing gran fondos for 2010 in Boulder, Colorado, Madison, Wisconsin, and Mammoth Lakes, California.

Both of the Tour of California events will offer three distances to accommodate various skill and fitness levels — short, medium, and the full length of the respective Amgen Tour stage — and will be fully supported with aid stations, mechanical support and police traffic control at key intersections.

One participant at Leipheimer’s Santa Rosa event was AEG Sports president Andrew Messick, an avid cyclist. Messick said he was “really impressed” with Leipheimer’s event

“Being a part of Levi’s gran fondo, riding it, and seeing how well it was organized, I realized there are a lot of people who would love the opportunity to get together with a few thousand passionate cyclists and spend a day riding their bikes along a great course that is challenging and hard, but also relevant to them,” Messick said. “I think for a lot of people, being able to ride a full stage of the Amgen Tour of California from beginning to end, with full mechanical support, food, water and alongside thousands of other roadies is a great way to spend a day, and a great reason to get in shape.”

The first AEG event will trace stage 8 of the Amgen Tour on a circuit through Thousand Oaks, Westlake Village and Agoura Hills, and will be held on April 11. The second, tracing stage 2 from Davis to Santa Rosa, will be held two weeks later on April 25.

Registration is open to the public on December 21 at Active.com. The cost is $125 for all distances, with a portion of all entries allocated to Breakaway From Cancer, Amgen’s primary cancer charity, which aims to raise awareness of the resources available to cancer patients, from prevention and diagnosis through treatment and survivorship.

Morgan Hill, California, based bicycle manufacturer Specialized will be the presenting sponsor of both events, titled “The Breakaway Rides presented by Specialized.” Specialized staff, customers, athletes, and associates will have pre-sale registration benefits beginning Wednesday, December 16.

AEG is partnering with Pacific Sports, a leading sports and event management company that has produced running and triathlon events for over thirty years, to organize the rides. Participants will be provided with chip timers that will enable them to compare their times with each other’s, and one month later, with the times of the pro field.

“With a bit of luck you might not need to unclip at key intersections, but you can’t go full gas the whole time, either,” Messick said. “Which is fine, we don’t want to see anyone crashing because they are exhausted from riding a race pace.”

Each event will be capped at 3500 total participants, and Messick expects both to sell out. Though he wouldn’t reveal any names, Messick said several of those participants would be well-known cyclists and celebrities; an announcement is forthcoming in January.

Details for each ride route will be announced on February 1, 2010, during the official 2010 Amgen Tour of California route announcement.

For more information, visit www.breakawayride.com or www.amgentourofcalifornia.com.

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