When organizers of Levi’s GranFondo wanted to bring the mass-participation bike ride to Sonoma County five years ago, they surveyed some of the rural west county roads and knew they had a problem.

The pavement on the proposed route was so potholed in places that it posed a safety risk to riders.

Organizers could have bailed on Sonoma County, but the ride’s founder, former professional cyclist Levi Leipheimer, is from Santa Rosa and has sought to promote the county as a cycling destination.

They could have asked the county to fix the byways on the route, but the Public Works Department has consistently come up short on such requests, upgrading only a small fraction of its 1,382-mile network each year. The repair backlog over the entire network is more than $920 million, according to the latest estimate.

Instead, after getting county permission, organizers hired their own contractor to fill in potholes. In the process, they forged a unique partnership with the county — a private organization stepping up to maintain public infrastructure.

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