Part of the lore of Santa Rosa’s (and pretty much this side of the planet’s) biggest cycling event is the elegant way early participants strain online servers to register nine months before any route signs are hung, any bananas sliced, or any timing systems debugged.

Seven years after its inaugural run, the 7,500-strong ridership of the Levi’s GranFondo still jockeys for position on the day the doors of rider registration are flung wide. Albeit virtually.

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(All Photos Courtesy Culture Pop Films)

This year, GranFondo producers Bike Monkey and Levi threw a beautiful wrench in the works with the announcement of the longer, harder, more-graveled, and how-could-it-be-but-somehow-it-is more stunning Panzer route.

An add-on to the already tough Gran route, the Panzer takes the rider another 14 miles further into the Sonoma County backcountry and throttles legs with another 1,600 vertical feet of climbing. This is in addition to the already charismatic 103 mile/8950’ one finds on the famed Gran route, taking the rider deeper into Jurassic grade fern-walled canyons, rhodedendron-lined gravel roads, and high-speed dances on asphalt just a few yards back from remote ocean cliffs.

fondo1The Panzer, like the Gran itself, requires of its riders far more than ambition to complete it successfully. In order that the reach of thousands that come to ride the GranFondo don’t exceed their grasp, all candidates had to prove their mettle by completing the Gran route at a previous GranFondo in under 7.5 hours (including rest stops, flat tires, or pull-overs to gape slack-jawed at the scenery). Should one find that they made the cut, they then had to be quick enough to nail down one of the scant 250 spots available in this route.

“Quick” here is not an understatement. Registration for the 2015 GranFondo opened on January 12th at 9:00 AM Pacific. By 10:37 AM, there wasn’t a Panzer spot left. Of the over 4,000 Gran route spots, just over half remained. In that time, people registered for the ride from 42 states, four Canadian provinces, and countries like England, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, and Singapore. It’s expected that we’ll see riders from every state, province, and possibly, non-ice-covered continent by the time the GranFondo departs Santa Rosa on the morning of October 3, 2015.

fondo2No other ride commands global attention like Levi’s GranFondo. A lot of that has to do with premium support, impeccable organization, and a true sense of community that the ride imparts to its participants. But ask any rider what they remember about this event and it’s the combination of eye-popping beauty, profound physical challenge, nearly perfect weather, and pitch-perfect cycling roads that stretch like a thousand strands of a spider’s web out from Santa Rosa, California.

Ride with us. There’s room. The only problem will be your new high standard for what it means to have a great day out on two wheels.