Olympian says Penticton provides great cycling

Alison Sydor is among four Olympic athletes taking on the 2013 version of the Valley First Granfondo Axel Merckx Okanagan on July 7.

FORMER OLYMPIC CYCLIST Alison Sydor is participating in her third straight Valley First Granfondo Axel Merckx Okanagan.

FORMER OLYMPIC CYCLIST Alison Sydor is participating in her third straight Valley First Granfondo Axel Merckx Okanagan.

Alison Sydor is among four Olympic athletes taking on the 2013 version of the Valley First Granfondo Axel Merckx Okanagan on July 7.

Sydor will be joined by Merckx, Simon Whitfield and Andrew Byrnes. Evan Guthrie, a professional cyclist from Peachland and the Bontrager Cycling Team, will also participate.

When asked why Olympians have taken an interest in the event, Sydor said each person has their reason but the event has a lot to offer people.

“Whether you want to hammer at the front of the pack or just enjoy the whole bike festival, it’s definitely one of the best bike festivals in western Canada,” said Sydor, who won silver during the Atlanta Olympics in 1996 and is a three-time world champion for mountain bike.

“The Penticton fondo, it’s pretty fun for me to connect with some of the people I raced with 20 to 25 years ago,” she said. “It means different things to different people. A lot of good energy and a lot of happy riders.”

Sydor has participated in the first two and is looking forward to this weekend. It started originally with an invite from Merckx and his wife Jodi.

“I think it’s a great place to ride,” said Sydor, who discovered during a girls weekend what amazing riding the area has.

“Everybody comes for the good riding. It’s a lot of fun for me to meet up every year with some cycling friends from Alberta. It’s an event that has grown nicely every year.”

While in Penticton, Sydor intends to hit the Granfondo Women’s Night at the Bike Barn from 6 to 7:30 p.m. and she has assisted with the Piccolofondo. She described that as a fantastic element of what Jodi and Axel put on.

“I think last year with the move to have the kids race at Gyro Park, some really fun races to watch,” she said. “Just to see all the kids and all the families, everyone just having a fun time. Just great to see the kids coming out and getting an opportunity to race.They just have so much fun and that kicks it off nicely.”