Downtown Santa Rosa streets aren’t the only ones carrying leftover bike race graffiti. (Read about them HERE.) Some west county residents are still smoldering over markings on Coleman Valley Road left over from Tour of California races. Others look at them fondly and describe them as historic since they were painted to cheer local bike racer Steve Cozza.

Meanwhile, Sonoma County is working to have them removed. Follow the email trail:

Question: What’s up with all the words painted on Occidental Road? Suspect it’s to encourage some bicyclists but it’s not washable paint.  Seems very rude whoever did it. Legal? — Kate Brandtner

Answer from Tom O’Kane, deputy director of the county’s Transportation and Public Works Department: We are having a number of problems w/these bike events. The permits are handled by PRMD and Kevin Lopeman, who reviews & actually issues the permit. He holds either a bond or a cash deposit to make sure the event organizers fulfill the conditions of the permits. I agree w/the writer who said it was rude, and it is also illegal.

Answer from Kevin Lopeman of the county’s Permit and Resource Management Department: Got ahold of the race director. He is in Utah for a race and then he is off to Colorado for a race. He will address it in a few weeks. I’m either meeting with him or someone else to go over the paint markings on Occidental Rd.

Comment from Road Warrior reader Chris: The graffiti on Coleman Valley Road refer to Steve Cozza, a local bike racer (now retired), who took part in the Tour of California in 2006 and 2008. It’s been there for several years now, and is part of local history. The Tour organizers are not responsible for that graffiti, and they admonish fans to use water-soluble chalk, not paint, to write their encouragements on public roads.

1. Steve Cozza is from Petaluma (grew up and still lives there) and was a promising young bike racer some years ago. He got injured and retired from racing.  He is now a Realtor with Frank Howard Allen in Petaluma and is very active in community projects, etc.

2. One of the stages of the 2006 Tour went over Coleman Valley Road.  Spectators wanting to encourage Steve painted the “Cozza Cozza Cozza” graffiti on the steeper parts (they should have used chalk!) – he didn’t do it himself.  While some people regard the painted graffiti as something of an eyesore, it memorializes the brief career of a bike racer who is now a pillar of the community in Petaluma.  For that reason, most people kind of like the graffiti.

3. Coleman Valley Road is revered within the cycling community because of its difficulty and beauty.  Difficulty: one section of the road gains about 800 feet of elevation in just over one mile.  Very steep, very challenging.  Many cyclists walk their bikes up this section.  Beauty: the view of the Pacific from where the road turns inland is stupendous.  Indeed, there are scenes of surpassing beauty all along Coleman Valley Road from the Pacific to Occidental.

4. “Cozza” is Italian for “mussel.”  This causes some perplexity for Italian-speaking visitors. 🙂

Addendum from Steve Cozza: “Why don’t they just power wash it?” he said when told about the previous conversations.

“I don’t recommend it or support it, but it’s a normal thing to do in Europe. I raced there for 10 years before the Tour of California. When I saw (the graffiti) during the race I thought it was cool, I was racing in my own territory.”


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