A record 7,500 bicyclists rolled out for the Levi Leipheimer's King Ridge Gran Fondo on Saturday in a ride that unfortunately was marred by three serious injuries.
Police said that wet pavement may have been a factor in both crashes that occurred on winding roads on a particularly hilly section near the Pacific Coast in Sonoma County.
The Santa Rosa Press Democrat reports Kristin Rossi, 43, of Hillsborough was injured in a solo crash at 11:43 a.m. An hour later at about the same location, Janet Walker, 40 of Canada crashed into her boyfriend, David Edmiston, 48, also of Canada, sending both tumbling down a hillside.
All three suffered broken bones and had to be airlifted to area hospitals by helicopter. The crashes occurred near the intersection of Kings Ridge and Hauser Bridge roads, near Salt Point State Park. Their current condition is unknown, but we certainly wish them all a swift recovery.
The Press Democrat reports that four other unidentified cyclists were taken by ambulance to area hospitals during the ride.
The charity ride is based in Leipheimer's hometown of Santa Rosa and raised $175,000 last year. Beneficiaries include local bicycle advocacy programs, the Forget Me Not Farm for at-risk children, and Livestrong.
The ride also helps fund Santa Rosa's costs for hosting a stage of the Amgen Tour of California. Although it didn't host in 2011, the city is expecting to host the opening stage in 2012.
The ride sells out quickly every year, even as the cap rises from 3,500 to 6,000 last year to 7,500 this year. The sudden spike in traffic on registration day this year caused the servers to shut down, leaving thousands in the lurch until service could be restored.
Anoush Zebarjadian was expected to be among those riding in this year's Gran Fondo. During last year's ride, he was struck by a hit and run driver in an SUV. The 58-year-old from San Francisco had to undergo 4 months of recovery before he could return to work.
The event features a number of bike ride options. The Gran route is 103 miles with more than 8,000 feet of climbing; the Medio route is 65 miles and the Piccolo route is 32 miles. New this year was a Willow Creek option on dirt roads that riders could pick up on the Gran or Medio routes.
Radio Shack was the main sponsor of this year's ride and the title sponsor of Leipheimer's pro cycling team that past two years, Team RadioShack.
Leipheimer had a good year in 2011, winning the inaugural USA Pro Cycling Challenge, Tour de Suisse and Tour of Utah. He finished second in the Tour of California behind teammate Chris Horner, but series of crashes and mishaps plagued his Tour de France this year.
Leipheimer will ride for Omega Pharma-QuickStep cycling team next year.