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Registration is full for chef Michael Chiarello’s Bottega Gran Fondo for 2015, but that doesn’t mean you can’t be a part of it, because you can still volunteer to help put it on.

Rebecca Kotch, director for the April 25-26 event, said it takes 150 volunteers to put on the event, now in its second year, and so far she has 92. During an evening volunteer meeting at Velo Vino on March 10, she said she could use a few more. About 20 people attended that meeting – most were volunteers from last year and most knew exactly what they were going to do.

Volunteers are needed to be one of the course marshals, that is, standing at key points along one of the three routes, directing the 450 riders which way to go; or being on the King of the Mountain hill, that is Old Howell Mountain Road, cheering the riders as they go uphill as fast as they can for 3.1 miles.

Being a volunteer also means setting up and then tearing down the tables and chairs for the Sunday lunch, which will be held at North Park in Yountville on Sunday, April 26.

Or it could help folks with parking, putting up signage on the roads or being a course sweeper, that is someone who picks up or “sweeps” the slowest of the slow riders and gives them a ride, if need be.

“We take care of our volunteers,” Kotch said. “We feed them well, (give them) T-shirts and a little bit of swag. It’s a great, great fun weekend, doing things for key nonprofits.”

Michael Chiarello’s Bottega Gran Fondo is 2½ days of food, wine and cycling that benefits a number of nonprofits that include the Napa Valley Vine Trail, Bike Coalition, Clinic Ole and a national beneficiary, the Davis Phinney Foundation for Parkinson’s.

It is designed to include six celebrity chefs, six winemakers and six pro cyclists, who each lead a group of 20 to 25 riders on courses that are 25, 40 and 75 miles. This year, the pro cyclists include former Tour de France winner and world champion Cadel Evans, 17-time Tour de France competitor George Hincapie and a legendary American cyclist, Andy Hampsten.

According to Kotch, Hampsten’s involvement with the Gran Fondo, which loosely translates to “big ride” in Italian, is particularly fitting, given that his “legendary day on the Passo Gavia at the 1988 Giro d’Italia was one of the inspirations for the event,” Kotch said.

In a news release, Chiarello talks about that day: “I was in Italy for Pinarello’s Gran Fondo, half-way up an especially grueling climb and searching for extra motivation. The image of Hampsten preserving in the snow over the Gavia during the Giro — the sheer epicness of it — gave me a little something extra. Cycling has been such a positive force in my life. Within Napa Valley as the backdrop, I wanted to honor that particular experience by sharing a chef’s vision of cycling and ‘breaking bread’ with my friends and guests.”

Besides Evans, Hincapie and Hampsten, other pro cyclists involved are Tim Johnson, Robin Farina, Chris Carmichael, Davis Phinney, Connie Carpenter and Bob Roll.

Farina was at the March 10 volunteer meeting, enjoying the Clif Family wines that were poured as was everyone else.

Kotch said besides the cyclists two other athletes, Olympic gold medal winners Brian Boitano in figure skating and Summer Sanders in swimming, will participate.

The local winemakers leading off teams of 20 to 25 cyclists include Sarah Gott, Doug Shafer, Steve Reynolds, all from the Napa Valley, and Brian Larky from Los Angeles, Carlton McCoy from Aspen, Colorado, and Bobby Stucky from Boulder, Colorado.

On Friday, a warm-up ride of 30 miles will begin in the early morning and registration will be Friday afternoon from 1 to 5 p.m. at Velo Vino. Registration continues on Saturday during the “Mercato,” which includes chef demos, wine tastings, a silent auction and a wine tasting “tent” in the Bottega private dining room. It will be held at the V Marketplace, 6525 Washington St. in Yountville.

That afternoon, from 4 to 5:30 p.m., a special benefit for the Davis Phinney Foundation will be held. It features the American 7-Eleven team members who competed in Europe and the Tour de France and won. Besides Phinney, the panel includes Hampsten, Carmichael, Doug Shapiro and Ron Keifel with NBC sports commentator Todd Gogulski as moderator.

That discussion alone would be worth being a volunteer. Imagine the stories you would hear. Also in attendance is author Geoff Drake, who wrote “Team 7-ELEVEN: How an Unsung Band of American cyclists Took on the World — and Won.” The event is limited to 90 guests.

The ride kicks off at 8:05 a.m. exactly with groups of 20 to 25 leaving the Yountville Community Center. Their first stop is Frog’s Leap Winery where three chefs (Dave Beran, Ned Bell and Annette Shafer) will make food; then it is up to Angwin and the second chef’s stop at Outpost. Chefs there include Chiarello, Matt Accarrino and Chris Kollar; and the third chef’s stop is Trefethen Family Winery, where cyclists will enjoy food from Seamus Mullen and John Mitchell.

And if that’s not enough food, lunch is served at North Park, Washington Street at Madison in Yountville.

If volunteering for this food, fun and cycling event sounds like something up your alley, there are two ways to do so. Go to and click on the “Volunteer” link at the top of the page or send an email to and tell her you’d like to lend a hand. Your help will be appreciated.


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