The Prospera Granfondo Axel Merckx Okanagan cycling event is expected to ramp up tourism dollars and traffic for the area this weekend.
“We will have around 2,500 riders for sure,” said event founder Axel Merckx. “People are coming from further; more Americans and Europeans are coming and trying to do the ride. That’s really cool to see.”
Attendance from international visitors often brings a bigger economic impact to the community said Penticton’s sport tourism co-ordinator Jeff Plant.
“The general tourism experience sells, but destination guests are likely to stay for longer and have greater economic impact compared to regional visits, who tend to stay with friends or family and generally have shorter duration.”
Plant is also involved event operations as the race director.
“Every touch point that an athlete experiences in our event we try to make it as good as it possibly can be,” he said. “There are a number of factors that go into the selection of the track. Certainly we’re trying to highlight the region, the different geographic and tourist attractions within the region. We’re trying to provide a variety of terrain for riders of all abilities so we want challenges that suit everybody.”
Plant said Penticton has built a legacy as a host community for sporting events.
“The spectacular terrain of the valley, desert, country orchards, wineries, lakes – it’s pretty hard to beat it.”
He said the event will have a big impact on traffic around the region, and that a detailed operations plan will ease passage around the blockages as cyclists launch from Penticton and travel through Summerland Okanagan Falls, Oliver and Kaleden
“Movement will be possible but delays are expected.”
Before the granfondo gets underway on July 12, younger riders will get the first crack at Penticton’s streets during the Piccolofondo on July 11. The Piccolofondo begins when the farmer’s market ends at 1 p.m., and lasts until 4 p.m. During that time, the roads surrounding Gyro Park will be closed to traffic – Main Street, Martin Street, Lakeshore Drive and Front Street. Minor tweaks have been made to bus routes two, three and five
The main event begins the following day at 7 a.m. out front of Gyro Park. Main Street, between Lakeshore Drive and Westminster Avenue, will be closed from 6 a.m. until 5 p.m.
Other closures on July 12 will be sporadic: Lakeshore Drive will be closed between Main Street and Eckhardt Avenue from 6:30 until 10 a.m.; Main Street will also see the stretch between Wade Avenue and Kinney Avenue closed from 7 a.m. until 3 p.m.; South Main will be closed from Kinney Avenue to the city limits from 7:45 until 9 a.m.; and Skaha Lake Road will be closed from the Channel Parkway to Kinney Avenue from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. At 9 a.m., controlled crossing will begin at the intersections of Main Street and Duncan Avenue as well as Main Street and Eckhardt Avenue.
An alternative path will be taken by bus route 16 from 9:42 a.m. until 5 p.m. For more info on road closures visit www.granfondoaxelmerckx.com.