Sunday, May 3, 2015

My Bottega Gran Fondo

Last weekend was year 2 for the Bottega Gran Fondo (BGF). It was also the second year for me as well since this immediately became one of my favorite events after participating last year. The event, it’s more than a ride, is put on by celebrity chef Michael Chiarello, who is an avid cyclist. It’s everything you would expect a ride sponsored by a cycling celebrity chef to be.

The BGF is unlike any other ride I’ve done.  To begin with, each “chef stop” (not rest stop) is hosted by a renowned chef. This means vegetable spring rolls at the first chef stop versus the usual PBJs. The second chef stop featured chocolates from Kollar Chocolates and the third chef stop, which was at Trefethen Winery, actually included wine tasting. 

The event is also different in two other significant ways. Saturday is full of wine tasting and cooking demonstrations, which are hosted by more famous chefs and sommeliers with the help of retired pro cyclists.  However, the coolest difference is the start.  Each person joins a team, led by a chef, sommelier, or pro cyclist.  You start the ride as a team with the goal of staying together to the first chef stop. It’s all very cool.

Last year we decided to make a weekend out of it too late and could not find a place to stay. So, this year Sherry had us booked in the Hotel Yountville as soon as the event dates were announced.  This was quickly shaping up to be a fabulous adventure.

Sherry and I with George and Andy.
We make the 1-hour drive to Yountville Saturday morning. After picking up my registration packet and shopping at the booths it was time for lunch at Bottega.  Then, it was off to our demos.

First up was a wine tasting demo of Italian wines hosted by wine merchant Brian Larky with the help of retired pros George Hincapie and the legendary Giro d'Italia winner Andy Hampsten. We tasted 6 different Italian wines all while George and Andy told stories or answered questions about what it’s like to ride the big races of Europe.

Next, we were off to a cooking demo by Chiarello. His helpers were Chris Carmichael and Tour de France winner Cadel Evans. This demo was also hosted by retired cyclist, and current commentator with NBC Universal Sports, Todd Gogolski. It was another story filled hour with Chris and Cadel sharing more stories.

Sherry and I with Cadel.
At last we made it the hotel and settled in. Sunday morning was simply gorgeous and you just knew it was going to be a great day for cycling. I rode down to the start and found my team.  I was riding with Chris Kollar (of Kollar Chocolates) again this year and once again he had his chocolates with him.  I promise I will tell you all about the ride in my next post, which will be called something like All Aboard the BGF Train.  But for now, I’ll just say it was a great day on the bike.

Just after the 3rd chef stop we came to a T-intersection. The 75 mile route was left and the 55 mile route was to the right.  I opted for the 55 miles this year. Why? Well, turning left meant 2 more hours of cycling including climbing Mont Veeder while right meant 2-hours of hanging out by the beautiful pool while people brought me drinks.  That’s kind of a no brainer in my book.

My reward for only riding 55 miles.
We actually stayed Sunday night as well so we could spend all afternoon relaxing by the pool. After 4-hours of riding and climbing it was pretty damn nice to sit on my ass and get the waiter's attention anytime I needed something (like more wine or a chocolate shake).

Actually, as expected, the entire weekend was heavenly. It was so nice, that we are already watching the BGF web site and anxiously waiting for the 2016 dates to be posted. After 2 great events so far I can’t wait to see what year 3 has in store. However, I do know that whatever it is I will be there to enjoy it.


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