NorCal’s Top 10 Gran Fondo and Century Rides

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There’s nothing like a 100-mile day spent in the saddle. 

With lush greenery, delicious food (a.k.a. fuel), and hundred of fellow cyclists, Northern California offers some of the most picturesque and rewarding Century and Gran Fondo rides in the world. Don't know the difference? 

While a Century used to be a ride of approximately 100 miles (period), in an effort to attract more riders, modern races offer more distance choices such as a metric century (100 km, or 62 miles) and even 30- and 15-mile versions. Some go the other way, and offer a double century or double metric century, to satisfy those seeking added suffering. Gran Fondos are essentially the same thing–the name was appropriated from a type of bike racing that’s been held in Italy since the mid-‘70s and offer three distances, Gran (around 100 miles), Medio (50-60), and Piccolo (25-30).

Ready for the races? Choose from our ten favorites: 

The Death Ride

A.k.a. the Tour of the California Alps, this ride is generally acknowledged as one of the premier cycling events in the West—it's time to cross it off your bucket list. The 29th Anniversary of the Death Ride promises a long and strenuous day in the saddle: five Sierra passes with 15,000 feet of elevation gain over 129 miles. // July 11, 2015; Markleeville

The Jensie Gran Fondo

The region’s newest Gran Fondo, the Jensie stars one of the professional peloton’s most popular competitors, the recently retired Jens Voigt of Germany. Ride your choice of three distances: The Breakaway (40 miles), The Presidential (70 miles), and the Jens Voigt signature "Shut Up Legs" (100 miles). // October 10, 2015; Novato

Levi Leipheimer’s Gran Fondo

Another bucket list ride, this may be the most popular Fondo of them all, attracting 7,000 riders on the first weekend of October every year. The mass start can be a bit hairy, but spectacular scenery and challenging terrain of western Sonoma County make it one of the best. // October 3, 2015, Santa Rosa 

The Marin Century

One of the NorCal’s oldest centuries (celebrating 52 years this summer), The Marin Century offers six course variations, taking riders all over Marin and through southern Sonoma counties. It’s particularly noted for the great food served at the rest stops. // August 4, 2015; San Rafael

The Devil’s Slide Ride

Once known as the “Giro di Pacifica,” this event offers three road distances, two MTB routes, trails runs, and even dog walking loops. The 14 -mile MTB course allows access to a private trail normally closed to bicycles. // July 18, 2015; Pacifica 

Tahoe Sierra Century  

Ride the scenic High Sierra on 30-, 60-, or 100-mile routes that offer challenging hill climbs and seemingly limitless views around every bend. // September 12, 2015; Tahoe

Tour de Peninsula 2015

A great starter tour, the TdP is now in its 24th year, and considered by many to be one of Northern California’s most fun recreational rides and social gatherings (there are 31-, 56-, and 63-mile routes). // August 2, 2015; San Mateo

Konocti Challenge Century

Offering four route options, the 65- and 100-mile courses give you the opportunity to ride around one the largest natural lakes in California. // October 3, 2015; Lakeport

24th Annual Bike 4 Breath

Three route options include a family friendly 10-mile route, a 30-mile intermediate route, and a challenging 64-mile route for the cycling enthusiast. // July 11, 2015, Atherton

Harvest Century Bicycle Tour

Ride through the heart of Sonoma County on a 23-, 37-, or 60-mile route through the rolling hills of the Alexander, Dry Creek, and Russian River Valleys. // July 18, 2015; Healdsburg

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