Riders of all ages participated in 2019’s Axel Mercx Granfondo in Penticton, with over 1600 registering for 2020 before COVID-19 forced its cancellation. (Western News File)

Riders of all ages participated in 2019’s Axel Mercx Granfondo in Penticton, with over 1600 registering for 2020 before COVID-19 forced its cancellation. (Western News File)

Granfondo ‘Penticton’s best opportunity for an event in 2021’

The long-distance cycling event was cancelled this year after 1600 riders had already registered

Penticton’s annual long distance cycling event, the Axel Mercx Granfondo, is getting ready for 2021 with a COVID-19 recovery plan.

The Granfondo has brought in an average of 2,600 cyclists each year to Penticton.

Axel Mercx himself and event director Jeff Plant presented a brief outline of the future of the Granfondo to Penticton’s council on Oct. 20, as a COVID-19 safe event next year.

“I believe that we are the best opportunity that Penticton has to host a major event in 2021,” said Plant.

According to their presentation, the Granfondo brings the city an average of $6.2 million a year in economic impact.

READ MORE: Granfondo cycles through the South Okanagan and towards 10th anniversary

Plant also noted that in previous years, the event’s lack of international participants had been seen as a knock on the event. However, Plant now considers this one of the reasons why the Granfondo will be able to recover.

According to their presentation, the Granfondo sees 97 per cent of participants come from Canada, with 86 per cent coming from outside the Okanagan.

That Canadian ridership is seen as a major benefit with the impacts COVID-19 has had on international travel.

Other bright points brought up in the presentation were the increase in bicycle sales, which have grown since February.

“Participation in cycling is through the roof,” said Plant. “We feel the demand for a cycling event will be greater than ever, and we have the benefit of still having access to the vast majority of our market.”

Not being a race, the event also has a larger degree of flexibility to introduce COVID-19 safety measures, such as putting riders in groups of up to 45 and staggering the groups in intervals.

One of the other potential changes would be spreading out the post-event celebrations from a single location to multiple businesses and restaurants across Penticton.

READ MORE: 2,500 cyclists ready to take the South Okanagan roads for Granfondo

The event has drawn consistent numbers of entrants, of all ages and genders, since it began in 2011.

“When I moved here from Europe in 2008, one of my main goals was to introduce myself, but also to share my passion and my heritage,” said Mercx. “I realized quickly that there was a big demand in the community and support for cycling in particular.”

Before the 2020 Granfondo was cancelled, the event had 1655 riders registered, whose registrations were rolled over to the 2021 event.

To report a typo, email: editor@pentictonwesternnews.com.


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