Granfondo simply a hit with riders

It didn’t even matter to Dan MacDonald that he placed third in the inaugural Valley First Granfondo Axel Merckx Okanagan Penticton cycling event. Results just weren’t on his mind.

It didn’t even matter to Dan MacDonald that he placed third in the inaugural Valley First Granfondo Axel Merckx Okanagan Penticton cycling event. Results just weren’t on his mind.

“There was no money on the line,” said MacDonald, who placed behind Svein Tuft of Langley and Vernon’s Olav Stana.

While navigating the course, the Penticton cyclist had the pleasure of riding with Axel Merckx, who was with Tuft. While there was a bit of joking around with Merckx, MacDonald said it was all business.

“It was definitely all business,” laughed MacDonald, who rides for pb norco. “When you race with the level of Axel or Svein, you know what you need to do. You ride your bike fast until your legs can’t go anymore. I have never ridden with Axel before so it was fun to just to ride and chuckle with him.”

MacDonald got a laugh from Merckx when asked where the Belgian’s big ring (chain gear) was. Jeff Plant, the booth organizer for the event, had made a wager with Merckx to use it on a particular part of the course. While he did during practice runs, he didn’t during the event day.

“He said, This is way too fast for me on that part,” said Merckx to MacDonald.

“It was a treat just to ride with him in general,” MacDonald said of Merckx, who sat at the bottom of McLean Creek and shook people’s hands. “Stand up guy. Good with people.”

The VFGAMO began at the Peach on Okanagan Lake Sunday morning and rolled to a conclusion between Queen’s Park Elementary School and the Penticton Trade and Convention Centre. For MacDonald, participating in it was about the prestige of it being in his hometown and cruising roads he is so comfortable on. MacDonald enjoyed it so much that he already has next year’s date of July 8, 2012 marked on his calendar.

Merckx said he was pleased with how things turned out.

“Everybody was happy with the whole ride, the course, so it’s been a real pleasure and it’s been real good to be here,” he said. “I haven’t heard one bad comment (about the course) yet. I hope that everybody was really happy and is going to be able to come back next year.”

Merckx, who placed 25th crossing the finish line in 4:12.22, said the ride was lots of fun and he met new people.

“This is really what this is about,” he said. “It’s more a social thing and is more something I do with friends and family.”

Among his friends joining him for the ride was former Vancouver Canucks forward Trevor Linden, wearing bib number 16. Linden enjoyed hanging out with “a bunch of like-minded people who love cycling and love the outdoors and sharing that with everyone is just a pretty cool experience.”

“Rolling through the vineyards of the South Okanagan at about 50 km/h is pretty special,” said Linden, who tried to beat Merckx but couldn’t. He said he would be challenging the cyclist to a skating competition and was confident about his chances in that.

Completing the Mediofondo first was Vancouver’s Carolyn Russell in 2:36.05.

Russell was excited about coming in first and said the recipe of weather for the ride was perfect.

“Not too hot and a little windy,” said Russell. “I love the course.”

While she admitted to having some concerns with a few corners initially, she said the scenery is “stunning.”

“I enjoyed riding in big groups with good riders.”

Tracey McQuair, another local rider from Penticton, had fun despite dealing with some bike issues.

“I enjoyed all the camaraderie between all the different riders,” she said. “Just meeting a lot of different people.”

While the 2,000-plus riders enjoyed the cycling company of each other, they did it with the support of spectators. One of them was Janice Olson, who was near the Peach on Okanagan Lake for the start. To her, it was amazing that Penticton was putting on such an event.

“I know nobody in this race,” she laughed. “I admire everybody who comes out and does this.”

Jason Curran, media relations for VFGAMO, said the event went beyond expectations.

“By all accounts everyone seemed to have a fantastic time,” said Curran. “Check our social media sites, people are just raving about the event. Of course the volunteers and the sponsors are pretty much what made it happen.”

The biggest surprise came from the Piccolofondo, which attracted 155 kids from training wheels to eight-years-old. The kids were led by Olympic medalist Alison Sydor.

“I’m not sure who had bigger smiles, the kids or the parents,” said Curran. “It was just so much fun. That was just the coolest event for kids.”

During the course of the ride, there were some injuries suffered by riders, but none of them were serious enough causing concern for Curran and the organizers.


Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Summerland man rescued following ATV accident

Helicopters used to transport injured man to Kelowna for treatment

South Okanagan playgrounds now open

Once caution tape is removed, playgrounds are officially open for public use

Moog and Friends Hospice hopes to raise $30,000 this month

Donations give hospice a chance to win an additional cash prize of $20,000

Canada Day to go virtual in Penticton

City seeking videos of residents singing the national anthem to include in online celebration

B.C. Hockey League prepping for 2020-21

League reviewing different scenarios and start times in compliance with provincial regulations

VIDEO: A Vancouver Island black bear takes weekend nap in eagle tree

Videos captured by Terry Eissfeldt shows the bear arriving Saturday night and sleeping in on Sunday

189 homes in Grand Forks area given evacuation orders

Homes are in the Nursery, Grand Forks Airport, Gilpin Rd., Johnson Flats and Granby Rd. areas

Mother bear and two cubs spotted in West Kelowna

Residents of Shannon Lake are urged to be on the look out for three bears in the area

Social justice advocate yells at Kelowna council, demands presence at Black Lives Matter rally

Heather Friesen has again taken to council chambers to make her opinion heard

Youth filmmakers tackle technology addiction, relationships, cyber-bullying

The Kelowna couple won a grant from Telus STORYHIVE

Significant flooding not expected in Summerland

Okanagan Lake now slightly higher than full pool level

Vernon videographer captures thunderstorm

See the ‘best bits’ of Saturday’s storm

Dyer: I left my heart in the desert

Kristy Dyer is a columnist for Black Press Media who writes about the environment

Most Read