2015 Fifth Annual Axel Merckx Granfondo Attracts Thousands
It means “big race” in Italian and that’s exactly what it was. The fifth annual Axel Merckx Granfondo attracted thousands of cycling enthusiasts to the Okanagan.
“I loved it, it was a lot of fun,” says Krista Nickel of North Vancouver who took part in the ride for the first time. “Beautiful people, really interesting course, and well organized, I had a great time.”
The bike ride is a gruelling 160 kilometres, but at the end, it’s all smiles after a mission well accomplished.
The fastest rider was Jon Bula who placed first with a time of four hours, one minute and 48 seconds which came down to a sprint finish.
This year, 2,500 participants took part in the ride that began in Penticton and wound its way through Summerland, Okanagan Falls, Oliver and Kaledon.
There were also shorter distance races as well, a 92 kilometre one, called the Mediofondo, along with a 55 kilometre race called the Cortofondo.
Cycling legend and organizer Axel Merckx says it’s about more than just a ride, it’s about the lifestyle.
“You can already see in the region the amount of people already riding their bikes on weekends and having an event like this is also giving those people a goal,” says Merckx.
It’s also an opportunity to raise money and awareness for the Axel Merckx Youth Development Foundation. Merckx says the event raises about $20,000 for the foundation every year.
“We’ve been able to introduce a lot of people to cycling as a result and it’s good to promote safety when cycling,” he says. “We work with them at a young age so that they eventually can become competitive riders or just being casual riders.”
The event drew in some big names like former Canucks forward, Trevor Linden who says cycling is now a huge part of his life.
“It’s just a lot of fun, a lot of like-minded people love riding their bikes and getting some activity,” says Linden.
Linden has been taking part in the event since it started in Penticton in 2011 and calls it a highlight of his summer.
“I’ve been so busy all year, I’ve got a bunch of buddies up here and as much as I love the cycling event, the company is the best,” says Linden. “I just love sitting around after and talking about it, so I think that’s probably the best part.”
Hundreds of people packed into Gyro Park in Penticton to enjoy the live music, food vendors and activities for kids. Organizers say their goal is to ensure there’s something for everyone at the event.
“We have the kids here so it’s not just me racing,” says Bula.
“I get to have a great place for my family to come visit, and then the ride itself is just incredible.”
And that’s what keeps those like Bula coming back year after year.
Results for the 2015 PGAMO provided through Sportstats. Simply click on the appropriate link below: