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Celebrity participants add to GranFondo wow factor

Actor Patrick Dempsey finishes off a doughnut during the GranDonut Race at the Finley Center in Santa Rosa, Friday, Sept. 28, 2012. Riders had to eat doughnuts every time they took a lap on a small bike. The proceeds of the event go to local and national charities.

(Kent Porter / Press Democrat)
Published: Friday, September 28, 2012 at 2:40 p.m.
Last Modified: Friday, September 28, 2012 at 2:40 p.m.

Barry Bonds, yes, that Barry Bonds, is headlining a list of celebrities that include TV stars, Olympic medalists and professional athletes who will take part Saturday in Levi's GranFondo.

Facts

ROAD CLOSURES

To accommodate the large number of cyclists participating in Levi's GranFondo, a number of roads will be closed or limited to one-way traffic on Saturday.

Road closures from 1 to 7 a.m.:
Northbound Stony Point Road between West Ninth Street and West College Avenue

Road closures from 7:45 to 9 a.m.:
Northbound and southbound Stony Point Road between West Ninth Street and West College Avenue.
Stony Point Road between Glenbrook Drive and West College Avenue.
West College Avenue between Stony Point Road and Cassasa Way.
West Third Street west of Fulton Road.
West Ninth Street at Stony Point Road.

Partial closures with one-way traffic from 7:45 to 9 a.m.:
Stony Point Road between Glenbrook Drive and West Third Street.
West College Avenue between Cassasa Way and Fulton Road.
Fulton Road between Guerneville Road and West Third Street.

Being able to rub elbows with Bonds, TV star Patrick Dempsey and the other celebrities is not a marketing tool, said Greg Fisher, marketing director of Bike Monkey, which is organizing the event.

They've been drawn to the Levi Leipheimer King Ridge GranFondo for the same reason 7,500 others are: the roads themselves.

“The area is absolutely stunning. The landscape and the route is so challenging, I look forward to it every year,” said Dempsey, who is taking part in the ride for the third time.

Those roads take riders through redwoods and vineyards, past sweeping views of the Pacific Ocean and up over King Ridge and Coleman Valley roads, challenging climbs for which no publicist or entourage can provide protection.

“Cycling is a great equalizer,” Fisher said. “Some of these guys may seem distant. They are characters on the screen, maybe you see them in a magazine. But on a bike they are working as hard as you are, maybe harder. There is this great equalizing effect there.”

Still, there is a cool factor in saying you lined up alongside Dempsey or actor Mark-Paul Gosselaar or two-time Olympic gold medal winner Kristin Armstrong.

“There are so many levels of awe,” said Raissa de la Rosa, Santa Rosa economic development specialist. “Imagine being a woman rider and being able to say ‘I hung with Kristin Armstrong.'”

Their presence adds an air of legitimacy to the event, she said.

“Everyone likes a star,” de la Rosa said. “And if you are into cycling and know that Levi and so many of the world's top cyclists train here, even if you are stargazing at the roads, it is pretty cool.”

Dempsey was among the celebrities who took part Friday in a pre-ride fundraiser, which involved racing child-sized bikes around a makeshift parking lot course while simultaneously eating donuts. It raised about $10,000 for the Fondo's charities.

“It's great fun and everybody has a great sense of humor,” Dempsey said. “And they are always so competitive.”

Bonds has not shown up at any pre-ride events, but officials said he has signed up for the 65-mile ride and is expected to show up.

The retired San Francisco Giants slugger has taken up cycling in the last two years. Pictures on his website, www.barrybonds.com, show a trimmer athlete than in his playing days.

Sean Estes, a spokesman for Specialized Bicycle Components, said Bonds has been associated with Cynergy Cycles in Santa Monica, a Specialized outlet.

“He rides a ton. He is strong and lean and looks as much as a cyclist as a baseball player these days,” Estes said.

De le Rosa said Bonds was also a frequent sight in May at the Amgen Tour of California stages in Big Bear, Mt. Baldy and Los Angeles.

Leipheimer, of course, will lead his namesake event to the coast and back from Santa Rosa's Finley Center, where riders will set off in a mass start at 8 a.m. Saturday.

Other notable riders include Tom Danielson of Durango, Colo., who rides for Team Garmin-Sharp, and Rebecca Rusch of Ketchum, Idaho, a world champion mountain bike racer known as “The Queen of Pain.”

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