Posted by Editoress on 10/21/10
On Sunday, July 10th, 2011, the inaugural Granfondo Axel Merckx Okanagan will bring together more than 2,500 cyclists of all ages (19 +) and abilities in a ride that will take them on a heart-thumping 150 kilometre journey through the picturesque southern Okanagan region. Beginning and ending in Penticton, British Columbia, the Granfondo Axel Merckx Okanagan will provide a challenge and a rider experience that is second to none.
Granfondos, or "big rides", have evolved out of the European cycling tradition. Popular throughout Europe, granfondos attract riders of all ages, abilities and backgrounds. From licensed racers to ambitious weekend warriors, these events bring together participants who want to tackle a challenging distance, enjoy the camaraderie of riding in a large pack, and take in the local hospitality.
The Granfondo Axel Merckx Okanagan will build upon the best of European granfondo culture, while maintaining an authentic southern Okanagan feel. The event will use local suppliers wherever possible, and will work closely with the city of Penticton to leverage their extensive hosting experience to create a lasting cycling legacy event for the region.
The Granfondo Axel Merckx Okanagan is led by Axel Merckx , a ten-time Tour de France participant, Olympic bronze medallist, and Belgian National Road Racing Champion who now resides in the Okanagan, after retiring from professional cycling in 2007. The husband of Canadian triathlete Jodi Cross, Merckx is excited to bring his passion for cycling to his adopted homeland in a very tangible way:
"Since coming to Canada, I've been searching for an opportunity to share my passion for cycling with this region, and to share the beauty and hospitality of this region with the wider cycling community. Thanks to a great partnership with the city of Penticton and the support of my friends, this event will turn opportunity into reality."
Without the strong support of the city of Penticton, the Granfondo Axel Merckx Okanagan would not be possible. As the official Host Community, Penticton's active involvement will ensure that the event operations run smoothly while maximizing the potential economic and social benefits to the community.
"We are so excited to have another high profile sport tourism event come to Penticton. This will not only provide a significant economic impact, but will showcase our community and region and engage people to come and train and/or enjoy the beauty of our valley and make Penticton a multiple trip destination" said Mayor Dan Ashton, "Cycling is becoming the 'new golf' and is an emerging trend in sport, and with a demographic (45-55) that compliments our wine industry, retail, restaurant, and hospitality businesses...this event has tremendous growth opportunities."
"Very few places can offer a cycling event with scenic vistas of lakes, mountains, vineyards, and country roads in a challenging and safe environment...the Granfondo Axel Merckx Okanagan in Penticton will be quite the Epic Ride " quipped Councillor Andrew Jakubeit (council liaison to the Granfondo Axel Merckx Okanagan organizing committee).
In addition to the everyday rider, the Granfondo Axel Merckx Okanagan has attracted the attention of a few celebrity cycling enthusiasts as well. Former Vancouver Canuck Trevor Linden, now a health club owner and avid cyclist, is already on board to tackle the roughly 1,300 metres of climbing that will highlight the ride.
"I look forward to participating in the Granfondo Axel Merckx Okanagan. Riding in the south Okanagan is some of the most spectacular riding in the world and I look forward to a very fun filled weekend next July."
The B.C. amateur cycling community is no less enthused: "Cycling BC is pleased to provide its support for this great event and, of course, Olympic bronze medalist Axel Merckx. Penticton has a great history of hosting world class sporting events and we are pleased that cycling will now become a major part of that sports legacy. We specifically wish to thank the City of Penticton for their enthusiastic support for what will truly be a spectacular cycling event."
The proposed 150 kilometre Granfondo Axel Merckx Okanagan is a that loop will begin in a mass start at 7 a.m. in downtown Penticton, travel through the beautiful terrain of the southern Okanagan, enroute to an exhilarating finish back in Penticton.
In addition to the granfondo, participants seeking a more modest challenge can register for the Mediofondo, or "half ride" covering roughly 80 kilometres. Licensed racers can take part in the Giro (race) that will precede the main granfondo start and use the same route
Registration for the Granfondo Axel Merckx Okanagan will open to participants early next week at www.granfondoaxelmerckx.com.
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