"This is why you should ride a bike, so you can hang out with friends, eat good food, and drink good wine."
Professional cyclist Alison Starnes might have been laughing when she said it, but she summed up the inaugural Cucina Giro de Marin perfectly.
This past Saturday, San Anselmo shops Paradigm Cycles and the Cucina restaurant partnered with the local professional cycling team Peanut Butter & Co./Twenty12, and invited anyone with a bike to join them for a group ride followed by a simple, delicious lunch at the Italian restaurant.
The difference between this ride and other group rides that race through town is the Cucina Giro de Marin featured a leisurely lunch at Cucina, and support before and after from Paradigm. And, most importantly, it was fun. Many group rides around here are far more race-like, with a lot of bike racers in the midst of training, zooming by independent of any organization or business. The people who rode this past Saturday were at all levels of fitness and ability, and were motivated by the social aspect as much as the actual riding.
It is a model based on the old Risi-Bisi rides, started by the former chef and part owner of the Petaluma restaurant of the same name. Fabio Flagiello had a passion for cycling and Italian food, and brought people together to enjoy both. Eddy MacLeod, part owner of Paradigm Cycles, loved the Risi-Bisi rides and wanted to organize the same type of event in Marin. Julia Violich, former owner of Paradigm and current Director of Finance and Sponsorship for the Peanut Butter & Co./Twenty12 team, wanted to help. Together with Nicola Cranmer, founder and manager of the same team, they approached Donna Krietzman, owner of Cucina.
And a ride was born.
"Nicola and Julia and Eddy approached me with the idea and I thought it was wonderful. Anything to be more a part of the community and have mutual support with the cyclists and their families," said Krietzman.
About forty cyclists met at Paradigm Cycles for coffee and bagels Saturday morning, before a 9 a.m. departure onto the gorgeous roads of West Marin. Most of the small talk was cycling-oriented, but I overheard some riders already looking forward to the lunch that awaited us upon our return. There were several choices for routes, with most riders opting for a loop up to Point Reyes Station and a sizeable group choosing to extend the ride all the way up to Marshall -- perhaps to better earn their pasta, bruschetta, and wine.
On the ride, I chatted with Cranmer, and got her thoughts on the event.
"It's always wonderful to bring people together on the bike, and especially to connect the local cycling community with the local businesses. It just all makes sense, so of course I wanted the team to be involved," she said.
Olivia Dillon and Shelley Olds of the Peanut Butter & Co./Twenty12 team, along with Starnes of Team Tibco helped liven up the ride and allowed for riders of all levels to get a glimpse at what it means to cycle professionally.
But professional racer or not, everyone ate like a champion after over three hours in the saddle. Krietzman and her staff had delicious food waiting for us and we sat down to a family-style lunch, where the wine and conversation flowed easily. Some people were old friends, some were meeting for the first time, but a shared love of the bike and good food have a tendency to fast-forward friendships.
"It was perfect. Great weather, great day. We all stayed together and had a nice stop at Bovine Bakery in Pt. Reyes. And of course now this delicious food," exclaimed Carolyn Hutchins.
John Ackley of Paradigm Cycles didn't actually ride on Saturday, but was instrumental in the organization of the event, as were all of the shop's employees. They were on hand in the morning for any last minute tune-ups and when I got back that afternoon the shop was bustling.
Ackley says the goal is to make the Cucina Giro de Marin a monthly event, with the next two already scheduled for Oct. 9 and Nov. 13. He said that everyone at the shop was happy with the success of the day, and are so thankful to Cranmer, Krietzman, and Violich for helping to make it all happen.
Will Hutchins be back for the next Cucina ride in October? "Absolutely!" she said, before turning to her fellow diners and asking "I wonder if they know how much we can actually eat?"