Last Saturday, I got to spend some time hanging out with a couple hundred fine folks from our cycling community. The occasion? It was the party honoring the nearly 900 volunteers it took to run Levi’s GranFondo. That’s right! Just under a thousand people were needed to ensure the 6,000 riders had a pleasant experience. And, I was proud to be one of them since I volunteered to ride the MedioFondo as a on-bike Marshall.
That wasn’t my original plan. In fact, I actually paid to ride the GranFondo almost the same day that registration opened. However, on a ride with my good friend Jeff, he went on and on about how much fun he had at the bike expo at the first Fondo last year. After riding over 100 of Sonoma County’s toughest miles, I did not explore the expo at all. I was too tired so I simply ate and went home. So, Jeff got me to thinking it might be nice to do something different this year.
A couple of rides later, Jeff also mentioned they were still looking for on-bike Marshalls and this year we would get special jerseys. That iced it! A couple of emails later I was a volunteer as an on-bike Marshall and Jeff and I were paired to ride and work together.
Over the next few months there were several emails to read about our role. A couple of weeks before the event we all met at a local pizza place to learn more about our day. It was pretty straight forward. We were the eyes and ears on the road since the motorbikes couldn’t be everywhere at once. Our rules were simply to be social, ask folks to follow the rules of the road, find emergency help if someone crashed, and offer advice for mechanicals (for liability purposes we were not allowed to help fix mechanicals, even flats). We met once more the night before the event to go over our final instructions and learn how they wanted us to roll the next morning.
The day of the ride dawned bright and beautiful. It was going to be a spectacular day. At 7:00 am we started mingling with the forming crowds just to say good morning. At 7:30, we lined up in front of the official start. The plan was to send us out 2-by-2 every 10 minutes or so. The ride started right on time. Jeff and I watched in amazement at the sheer volume of cyclists that rode by as we waited our signal to go.
Then we were released to start our ride. Now we are riding along with the crowd, saying hello to the riders around us, explaining what a Marshall is, and really having fun with the social nature of our roles. We checked on people who were stopped to make sure they were fine. We talked a few people through changing a flat. We asked a few folks to stay right of the yellow line. We encouraged people as they slowly climbed the biggest hill they’ve ever encountered. We loaned tools to a tandem team so they could fix a very jammed chain. We rode at a very steady pace, talked to people right to the very end, and fulfilled our role admirably (if I do say so myself).
After our ride, we grabbed a beer and some paella and began to relax, all while being thanked by other riders for helping out. After a short stroll through the bike expo, which was very cool, it was time to call it a day and head for home.
This may have been one of the most rewarding experiences I’ve ever had on the bike. It was definitely the most rewarding event I have participated in. Jeff and I are already planning to Marshall again next year. However, this time he says we are doing the GranFondo for the ultimate marshalling experience. I can’t wait.
I know there are a lot of cyclists out there who do not volunteer at events because you want to “ride your ride”. I was one of them. However, this experienced has changed my perspective and now I know just how rewarding it can be to support an event like this and I was proud to be part of it. By the way, I also had a great ride.