Gran Fondo and Taste of Palo Alto to celebrate bikes and food in downtown

San Francisco nonprofit partners with Palo Alto Kiwanis on Sept. 17 event

Palo Altans will have the opportunity in September to participate in what event organizer Hunter Ziesing called "the latest and greatest Italian import" -- the Gran Fondo, Italian for "big ride."

On Sept. 17, San Francisco-based cycling and environmental nonprofit Echelon will put on the Echelon Gran Fondo, a lengthy bike ride accompanied by live music, cheering and a celebratory feast.

"We basically try to give our average, everyday participant the same fanfare and frivolity that you see at the Tour de France," said Ziesing, Echelon's founder and executive director, who has put on similar events nationwide for two years.

Participants in the Gran Fondo will include Greg LeMond, a three-time winner of the Tour de France who began his racing career in Palo Alto. LeMond became the first American to win the Tour de France in 1986. He also won the race in 1989 and 1990.

"I am really excited to do the event in Palo Alto," LeMond said in a statement. "I have a long history with the city that goes back to when I started racing."

The Gran Fondo is part of a daylong, city-sponsored festival of biking. In addition to the "grand" ride, a low-key, 0.6-mile loop ride called the Echelon Challenge will be offered, along with live music and food at downtown Palo Alto's King Plaza.

The first-ever Taste of Palo Alto food festival, co-sponsored by the Palo Alto Kiwanis Club and the Palo Alto Recreation Foundation, will feature samplings from at least 15 local restaurants.

Echelon and the Kiwanis began working together at the city's suggestion with the hope of attracting more attendees for each other, according to Lanie Wheeler, Kiwanis Club coordinator for the Taste. Participants in the Echelon rides receive free tickets to the Taste.

In May, the Palo Alto City Council unanimously pledged $50,000 to support the Echelon events, reflecting the city's growing enthusiasm for biking, as seen in the recently installed bike "corral" on Ramona Street in downtown Palo Alto.

"The city is currently a gold-rated city by the American League of Cyclists," Ziesing said. "The best you can get is platinum."

Bikers in the Gran Fondo choose from one of three bike-ride options that travel to the coast and back -- 65, 80 or 95 miles. The easier Echelon Challenge lets participants "walk, run, ride or stride" repeatedly around a 0.6-mile lap.

Riders of the Challenge and the Gran Fondo have the option of collecting fundraising pledges for their charity of choice or form fundraising teams, said Susan Becker, Echelon's Palo Alto team coordinator. Both Echelon and the City of Palo Alto particularly hope to support locally based charities, she added.

Taste proceeds will benefit the Palo Alto Recreation Foundation and local children's and youth charities, Wheeler said.

"If this is successful ... we'd like this to become another Palo Alto ongoing event, like the Black and White Ball," she said.

Gran Fondo riders will bike from 8 a.m. until 2 p.m., Ziesing said. The Challenge is open also from 8 to 2, but participants can stop and go as they please to enjoy live music, entertainment and food.

Registration for the Echelon Gran Fondo routes costs $100-150 depending on distance or $50 with a minimum $250 in fundraising. The Echelon Challenge costs $50, or $25 with a minimum $125 in fundraising.

The Taste runs from noon to 5 p.m. Tickets, which include five food samplings, can be purchased at the event for $25 for adults and $15 for children under 12.

More information is available online at

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Like this comment
Posted by family biking
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 30, 2011 at 9:17 am

I wish the city would offer more family-friendly bicycling events. $100 per person is kind of pricey for a family of 4.

Like this comment
Posted by family biking
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 30, 2011 at 9:46 am

I should say that I think that this event sounds great, just that some family oriented events would be a great addition.

Like this comment
Posted by qq
a resident of Barron Park
on Aug 30, 2011 at 9:58 am

The San Jose Bike Party is a lot of fun when it swings north through Palo Alto.

Web Link


Like this comment
Posted by family biking
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 30, 2011 at 10:09 am

Do a lot of families with younger kids participate in the San Jose Bike Party? The 8pm start is kind of late if the ride is going to last several hours.

Like this comment
Posted by Susan Stansbury
a resident of Barron Park
on Aug 30, 2011 at 10:57 am

The city is not offering this event. It is being organized by Echelon.
Individuals that have a great idea like this follow up with a lot of effort to make their idea become a reality. Another bike related event coming up which is more family friendly is Bike PA! This event, being organized by neighborhood Green Teams which consists of individuals volunteering their timewill be on Oct. 9th.
See Web Link
More information coming soon.

Like this comment
Posted by Sounds like fun.
a resident of South of Midtown
on Aug 30, 2011 at 11:12 am

To Susan Stansbury,

In May the City of Palo Alto pledged $50,000 to support the event. Further, Echelon and the Kiwanis could not do it without city support. Please don't dismiss the support that the city provides to make these special events that we all enjoy happen. We all appreciate the good work that Echelon and other groups do when they sponsor and organize events.

It takes a village...and a city government to create a great community.

This sounds like a great event. Well done to all of the organizers.

Like this comment
Posted by Hunter Ziesing
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Aug 31, 2011 at 9:49 am

Actually, it is very affordable. The Taste of Palo Alto is only $25 and it is for Kiwanis. The Challenge (doing laps) costs only $5 to register and you only have to raise or donate $50 more. The challenge includes the Taste of Palo Alto in your entry. The festival is FREE to anyone. The Gran Fondo at $100 - $150 is not cheap but it costs us nearly $200 just to put that event on. CHP, insurance, awards, volunteer grants, food, etc.

Hunter Z. Head Echelon guy

Like this comment
Posted by Mark Weiss
a resident of Barron Park
on Sep 17, 2011 at 10:21 am

I'm with Susan Stansbury. A local organized grass roots event is better than letting (or worse PAYING) some clever slicky's idea of an event. $25 for "Taste of Palo Alto" to me sounds pricey, especially coming after and within a couple blocks of Farmers' Market, where you can sample a lot of stuff for free. We put up $50,000 of our supposed crisis-level deficit funding so I would think the food samples should be subsidized, or free. People all over the world and in numerous fields would love to add "Palo Alto" to their event history -- we should not have to pay for these things, we should be charging them, HELLO!. (Same goes for Senior Games).

I as much as anybody enjoys seeing Our Man Sid in black Spandex, but give me a half hour and a yellow pad and I can come up with twenty better ideas than this. Palo Alto is too quick to capitulate to corporate slick marketing and colonization.

I saw about 75 riders and about 20 walkers runners at 10 a.m. or so. Bravo to Achieve Kids especially Matt and Linda from Santa Clara; but they are a sideshow. We can do more for them with a more targeted event. Or call me.

I want to hear more about Susan Stansbury's event.

Like this comment
Posted by T
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Sep 17, 2011 at 3:40 pm

Affordable to whom Mr. Ziesing?

The cost (for Gran Fondo) was more than this stay at home mom could justify. My memory (from a year ago) was that both Tour de Menlo and Tour de Peninsula were less than fifty dollars.

Having said that, we're pretty poor by Palo Alto standards. ;-)

Bike PA is more in my price range, and lots of fun. I wish there were more events like that!

Like this comment
Posted by Mark Weiss
a resident of Barron Park
on Sep 18, 2011 at 8:58 am

I felt guilty about my comments and ended making a donation to Kiwanis, on top of my ticket to the tasting.
I came up with two or three ideas, in four hours.
I had a great time, the non-athletic part of the program, but hope to train to do the actual ride next year. Our mayor Sid Espinosa was lack a pace car of a formula race; he donned black Palo Alto Bikes racing gear and led the 450 riders from downtown to Oregon then peeled back.
I hope to write a wee bit more on this on my blog. I hope the merchants work with Sid and City Staff to "tune the wheels" a bit and bring Echelon Gran Fondo back in 2012.
But I also hope to make it to Bike PA next month.

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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