Granfondo quickly gaining participants while supporting community

Granfondo Axel Merckx Okanagan is picking up speed on two fronts.

Paulette Rennie

Paulette Rennie

Granfondo Axel Merckx Okanagan is picking up speed on two fronts.

When the long distance cycling event was announced it would come to Penticton in October, the goal was to attract 2,500 cyclists. And now its showing a commitment to contributing to the community by partnering with Valley First. Axel Merckx, a former national cycling champion of Belgium and Olympic medalist, said the July 10 race is approaching 1,500 participants.

“I think it’s looking good,” said Merckx. “The first registration was really focused on B.C. and the local region. Now you can see the registration spreading out.”

Cyclists from Washington, Ontario and Alberta are signing up. Among the participants will be Merckx, his father Eddy and retired NHLer Trevor Linden. Because he and Linden are good friends, Merckx didn’t have to twist the arm of the popular former Vancouver Canucks captain to come.

“He’s a huge cycling fan and he loves riding a bike,” said Merckx, of Linden who lives in the Okanagan. “It’s a good excuse to go on a bike together with Trevor. Have a good time, which is what it’s about.”

Merckx is getting excited about the debut of the event now called Valley First Granfondo Axel Merckx Okanagan. He sees the community getting involved and said it’s great to have partnered with Valley First.

“I wanted to reach out to the community. That was most important to me,” said Merckx. “I wanted to get all the local businesses involved as much as I could. It has to be a celebration for cycling but also the Okanagan Valley. Valley First is leading within the valley with that example and I’m also really glad that we can help and try to reduce hunger in the Okanagan Valley within the community with the partnership with Feed the Valley.”

“We are absolutely delighted to lend our name to such a wonderful event,” said Valley First president Paulette Rennie, who during the announcement joked the name is a “mouthful.” “Having an event like the Valley First Granfondo Axel Merckx Okanagan come to our city is fantastic.”