After a 2 ½-year absence, the hugely popular Levi’s GranFondo will make its return to Sonoma County, California later this month with ex-pro cyclist and event namesake Levi Leipheimer leading the peloton.

Formerly a fixture on the fall gran fondo circuit, Levi’s GranFond has moved to early spring due to the ever increasing frequency of September-October wildfires in northern California.

We had so many challenges around the fall fire season, we just couldn’t take that risk anymore,” announced Leipheimer, former American National Road Champion and three-time Tour of California winner.

Canceled by the pandemic in 2020 and again in 2021, Levi’s GranFondo will roll out on 23 April from a new venue in the town of Windsor after operating for 13 years in Santa Rosa just north of San Francisco.

Leipheimer will offer five routes he personally designed, ranging from the family friendly 32-mile Piccolo Fondo, to the UCI pro World Tour worthy 138-mile Growler, which includes a leg punishing 14,000 feet of vertical ascent.

That’s the most difficult, challenging route that’s ever been unveiled by us at Levi’s GranFondo,” Leipheimer said of the Growler. “To the people doing it — just, wow.”

Photos: Levi’s Gran Fondo