Sports

Prospering with Prospera

CYCLIST AXEL MERCKX (left) and assistant branch manager David Bickell of the Penticton Prospera Credit Union hoist a bike in celebration of the announcement of Prospera taking over the title sponsorship of the annual Prospera Granfondo Axel Merckx Okanagan Penticton cycling event.  - Mark Brett/Western News
CYCLIST AXEL MERCKX (left) and assistant branch manager David Bickell of the Penticton Prospera Credit Union hoist a bike in celebration of the announcement of Prospera taking over the title sponsorship of the annual Prospera Granfondo Axel Merckx Okanagan Penticton cycling event.
— image credit: Mark Brett/Western News

Granfondo Axel Merckx Okanagan has a new title sponsor after its partnership with Valley First Credit Union ended last August.

Axel Merckx Events announced in a newsletter Tuesday the new partnership with Prospera Credit Union for three years.

Event director Jeff  Plant is excited by the news and explained why this new partnership is good.

“It shows a strong commitment from Prospera Credit Union believing in cycling,” said Plant. “They appreciate events that bring communities together.”

Plant said they have a great relationship with Prospera staff who are being engaged in the community.

“For us I think it’s a wonderful opportunity,” said Merckx. “A wonderful partnership. We’re securing the event for the next three years. To have such a solid partner, it’s going to enable us to continue the quality of the event that we have been able to do so far.”

Merckx said he is not disappointed Valley First Credit Union decided not to continue its partnership.

“There’s no hard feelings at all. This is business and we do understand that,” he said. “We’re very thankful for their support for the first three years. They have been great partners. They have decided to move to something else. I know they are still big fans of the event.”

In an email, Valley First president Paulette Rennie wrote they are proud they were able to provide the support to help Axel and Jodi Merckx bring the inaugural Valley First Axel Merckx Granfondo Okanagan to the South Okanagan.

“The race’s success has earned a great reputation for cyclists and our communities that will continue to grow the race and sponsorship opportunities,” said Rennie. “With that, Valley First has decided it was time to reallocate our funding and are currently working on a number of other opportunities in the South Okanagan. We will always remain committed to giving back to the communities we serve.”

Merckx is now looking forward to the new partnership.

“Negotiations were very smooth. They have riders themselves,” he said. “Great cycling fans. Great partners to have.”

Grandfondo Axel Merckx Okanagan approached Prospera because race organizers felt the credit union would be a great fit as they are a title sponsor for the Valley Granfondo in Fort Langley. Plant said it’s important to maintain a title sponsor to give them consistency and certainty.

“It allows us to take a longer view of programs and developing the event, our partnerships and building both the rider experience and community experience.”

Angela McLean, regional manager of Prospera Credit Union, said the Granfondo fits the company’s philosophy of health, fitness and family. She said they were extremely thrilled to be invited.

“Hopefully this brings a lot of community spirit to Penticton and the overall community in the Okanagan,” she said.

The Prospera Granfondo Axel Merckx Okanagan is set for July 13, 2014. Registration is still open in the Cortofondo (55- kilometre), Mediofondo (92-km) and Granfondo (160-km) categories. Registration is 16 per cent ahead of last year, which had 2,527 cyclists. Merckx said the event is attracting more people from outside B.C.

“We have our first person from Japan sign up on Tuesday,” said Merckx. “That was kind of really cool to see.”

This year’s event attracted one of the biggest names possible in Merckx’s opinion, in Canadian Olympian Clara Hughes. She is a six-time Olympic medalist in cycling and speed skating and the only athlete in history to win multiple medals in both games. Merckx received a call from Hughes stating she was unable to come the first three years due to her schedule. She asked if it was OK that she came this year.

“It would be an honour for us to have you here,” Merckx said to Hughes.

“What a great athlete,” he added. “I think probably one of the greatest athletes in Canada. It’s going to be very cool to have her and to have her participate.”

 

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