Celebrating cycling

Prospera Granfondo Axel Merckx Okanagan celebrates its fifth anniversary by giving back to supporters

Howard Pryde of Victoria is all smiles for this self portait as he crosses the finish line with his cell phone at the ready in the Cortofondo portion of the 2014 Prospera Granfondo Axel Merckx Okanagan event Sunday on Main Street.

Howard Pryde of Victoria is all smiles for this self portait as he crosses the finish line with his cell phone at the ready in the Cortofondo portion of the 2014 Prospera Granfondo Axel Merckx Okanagan event Sunday on Main Street.

The fifth Prospera Granfondo Axel Merckx Okanagan (PGAMO) is going to be a celebration for cyclists.

Jason Curran of PGAMO said Sunday’s race is focused on celebrating new and returning riders heading for the fifth anniversary. PGAMO has offered the first 500 registrants and five-year riders a gift.

Those who took advantage of early bird registration were entered into a contest for a 2015 Trek Émonda SL bike valued at $4,500

“We try to recognize the people that have supported us from the get-go,” said Merckx, owner of PGAMO. “Looking at the value they had over the last five years year in and year out and the quality of the event.”

Merckx said the weekend is about providing cyclists a safe bike ride in the South Okanagan Valley.

“It’s been five years now and every time I go back there it amazes me how beautiful the vines are,” said Merckx. “It’s something pretty exceptional that we can’t do every weekend. Riding on the roads are not always the best and safest thing out there. That’s what you feel like when you ride.”

The kids Piccolofondo at Gyro Park is considered one of the highlights. Merckx said having the kids fly around downtown is fun for him to watch. It reminds him of his youth.

“It’s those first things that you remember doing as a kid,” he recalls.

“You felt like a bike ride. You felt like a racer. Who knows, maybe it will generate some spark plug for passion for cycling. Not only for racing but for bike riding in general. It’s nice to see that true value of cycling starts there.”

The event is expected to have 2,500 cyclists which has been consistent since the inaugural year. Among the group will be two of Merckx’s under-23 professional Axeon Cycling team members Greg Daniel and Daniel Eaton. Eaton was crowned the U.S. U23 TT national champ. Curran also said Vancouver Canucks president of hockey operations Trevor Linden should be riding again. While the majority of the participants are from Canada, there will also be cyclists from the United Kingdom, New Zealand, Italy, Mexico, Bahamas, Colombia and China.

Of the participants 77 per cent are from B.C. The average age for riders is 49 for males and 47 for females, who account for nearly 34 per cent of the cyclists. The oldest is 87-year-old Robert Allan of North Vancouver riding in the 92-kilometre Mediofondo. The event also features the 160-km Granfondo and 55-km Cortofondo.

During the Piccolofondo, the family fun zone will be open at Gyro Park. On Sunday, the start chute opens at 6 a.m. with the race beginning at 7 a.m. Cyclists will depart Gyro Park before travelling through the District of Summerland and the towns of Okanagan Falls, Oliver and Kaleden. Finish area activities from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. include the family fun zone, live music, Tree Brewing Peloton Patio, massage therapy and a bike check and bag check. The finish line closes at 4 p.m.