By Neil Shirley
I’ve ridden my bike in a lot of places, places such as the jungle in the Genting Highlands of Malaysia, the serene rolling hills of Tuscany, the endless climbs found throughout the Swiss Alps, Colorado’s high-altitude Rocky Mountains and just about everywhere in California. All of those places are unique in their own way and deliver starkly different experiences. I’m often asked where my favorite location is to ride out of all my travels, and although it’s hard to pin down one single area. Except for one–it’s a place I’m rather attached to, and it’s California’s Central Coast.
Admittedly, I’m a bit biased since I spent the first 21 years of my life in and around San Luis Obispo and have spent countless hours riding the roads and trails of the area since the age of 14. Smack dab in the middle between Los Angeles and San Francisco, the Central Coast is the opposite of both of those busy cities and offers quiet roads, ranging from flat coastal routes through the beach towns of Pismo Beach, Avila Beach, Morro Bay, Cayucos and Cambria as you head North on Highway 1. Going inland there are an abundance of dirt and paved roads through the hills and into the vineyard covered hillsides of Paso Robles.
Other than the Tour of California passing through on a number of occasions, and the US Postal Service team holding team camp in Avila Beach way back in January of 2000, the Central Coast continues to be a hidden gem for cycling. There are a handful of cycling events that showcase the area such as the SLO GranFondo in late October, Eroica California vintage event in April, and the Lighthouse Century in September.
This year the SLO GranFondo will be held on October 30th and offers three route options, the full 100-mile Fondo, a 61-mile Medio and 25-mile Piccolo that all start in Avila Beach next to the historic pier. Both of the longer routes make their way through Morro Bay and over to the coast and offer timed courses. The 100 milers will have the opportunity to vie for the fastest overall time, in addition to a KOM/QOM, with both the fastest male and female for each winning a custom jersey from local apparel manufacturer Voler.
In addition to the GranFondo on Sunday, October 30th, the organizers will also host a Pro Panel reception on Saturday where attendees can enjoy local wines while cycling luminaries Bob Roll, USA Cycling Chairman Bob Stapleton, pro rider Alison Tetrick, retired pro Ina-Yoko Teutenberg, and others share stories and answer questions from the audience. Registration is currently open for both the GranFondo and Pro Panel.
This will be my second year in a row riding the SLO GranFondo, and after last year’s unexpected rain storm that doused us at the beginning of the ride before drying up by the mid-way point, I look forward to what should be dry weather that’s the norm for the fall in the Central Coast.