The RBA Challenge: Zap vs Neil At Levi’s Gran Fondo

October 2, 2014
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That’s right folks, it’s that time of the year again when Zap and Neil head north to ride in Levi’s Kings Ridge Gran Fondo and engage in a little mano y mano battle for RBA office bragging rights. Just has been the case last year, one of our combatants enters the weekend battle in prime shape while the other is still dealing with the lingering effects of jet lag and a fierce head cold.

With over 7000 cyclists showing-up to ride and enjoy the scenic environs of Santa Rosa, California, Levi’s Gran Fondo is of course one of the greatest one-day cycling events in North America. Three different courses are up for the choosing:  the 30 mile piccolo, the 65 mile medio and the 103 mile gran. This is how the long course is described…

“This route is the course for which the event is named. It’s 103 miles in length and consists of nearly 9,000 feet of total elevation gain. Professional cyclists complete it in under five hours; other riders take over 10 hours to finish. It is an extremely difficult ride. If you have never participated in a century ride before or ridden on steep, technical terrain, we strongly discourage you from choosing this route.”

Unlike previous years where Zap would ride the medio and Neil the gran with the challenge based on the time differential between their two respective finishing times, this year Zap is going all in to take on Neil over the same 103 miles.


Zap may be “el queso grande” at RBA, but doesn’t mean that he always gets special treatment. In fact, the bike he’ll be riding this weekend is actually a hand-me-down from Neil – the GT Grade that he rode in Idaho at Rebecca’s Private Idaho gravel race. The only non-production spec on the bike is a Shimano Ultegra Di2 drivetrain. Besides washing the Idaho dirt off the bike, the only changes we made was a 10mm shorter stem and we replaced the 33c Specialized Twister Pro knobs for a pair of 28c Michelin Pro 4 slicks. Ready to ride the carbon gravel bike weighs 20.1 lbs.

Of course Neil, needing every advantage he can get, has lined up a custom painted Specialized Tarmac disc bike (above). However, the bike is in fact so fresh that we won’t be able to see it built-up until we show up at Specialized on Friday morning on our way to Santa Rosa. You can figure that the Shimano Dura Ace Di2 bike with Roval carbon wheels will hit the scales about four pounds less than the GT.

As alluded to above, you couldn’t ask for two riders with more distinctly different levels of talent, fitness and fortitude.

Zap: Since September 1, he’s logged roughly 14 hours of ride time – just over six which came last weekend at the Beverly Hills Gran Fondo. In fact, due to the awesome cold he got following his trip to Italy, the 94 mile Gran Fondo ride was the only riding he’s done in the last two weeks.

Neil: Typical for Neil, he’s logged as many miles in a single weekend in September than Zap has all month. His monthly total is “around 55 hours with six rides that were at least 90+ miles long and two of those were around 140 miles.”

Barring further sickness, mechanicals or an alien abduction both Neil and Zap should be capable of giving the 103 mile course their best shot this weekend. In making your best guess as to the time gap  between them, you should know that Neil finished the 94 mile course in Beverly Hills in 4.5 hours – only two hours before Zap came in!


This is easy, all the winner has to do is offer their best guess below on the finish time differential between Zap and Neil. The randomly selected winner will receive an RBA schwag bag (which includes an RBA Jersey & arm warmer combo and a set of editor water bottles). Any additional anecdotes you want to throw-in are welcome.  Good luck and thanks for playing.



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