Fast, furious and fun.
Riding hard and smile often was the advice to the 2,500-plus participants in this year’s fifth annual Prospera Granfondo Axel Merckx Okanagan rated as one of the top cycling events in North America.
From the Main Street mass start the long, winding trail of cyclists powered up Vancouver Hill to the dramatic, high-powered finish of the elite riders. There was a little something for everyone, athletes and spectators alike.
Participants were registered in three divisions, the 55-kilometre Cortofondo, the 92-kilometre Mediofondo and the 160-kilometre Granfondo featuring an elevation gain of 1,000 metres, to Summerland, Oliver and through White Lake grasslands.
Those less concerned about the time at the finish line destination had the opportunity to enjoy the journey with a lunch break at winery just east of Oliver.
“I think more and more you have a sense of the whole town and everybody is behind it,” said event namesake and former premier competitive cyclist, Axel Merckx, who lead the start. “They (residents) understand and they see also the value of bringing in 2,500 families plus their families.
“We’ve had great support from the city from day one and we have a really good title sponsor with Prospera Credit Union which really allows us to have a really top event. As long as we have the participants coming, the volunteers show up and the support of those key partners we’ll keep coming.”
The winner of the Granfondo this year was Jon Bula of North Vancouver who won by a second over Colin Rimes of Vancouver in a time of four hours, one minute and 48 seconds.
Tony Winter of Victoria was the Mediofondo champ at 2:26:46 and 14-year old Conor Martin Kelowna set a new record in the Cortofondo with a time of 1:27:29.
Another familiar face on the course was Vancouver Canucks Trevor Linden, former player and current president of hockey operations with the team.
“No hockey talk. Honestly, I like to go out and have a good day, ride the bike with some buddies, push yourself a little bit but hey, I don’t care where I place. To me it’s all about the aprés,” said Linden afterwards
While the Sunday was the big day for riders there was plenty of other fun throughout the weekend.
That included Friday’s Granfondo women’s night supporting the growing trend of women and cycling and a cycling expo the next day along with the popular Kids’ Piccolofondo for upcoming coming riders.
As well, throughout the two days at Gyro Park near the finish line there was a family fun zone, live music and the Tree Brewing Peloton patio.