The Canadian province of British Columbia will play host to an Italian-style mass-start group ride at the Granfondo Axel Merckx Okanagan on 10 July in the city of Penticton.
At the event, cyclists will be offered a rare opportunity to ride alongside the famed Belgian cyclist Eddy Merckx. “My dad has two Granfondos in Europe and I thought it would be fun to share a day on the bike with cyclists from North America,” his son Axel Merckx told Bikeradar.
“He'll do the Mediofondo and we’ve had a lot of people excited about it already – it’s not every day you can ride with him in Canada.” An Okanagan resident, Axel is a former professional cyclist from Belgium and is currently the directeur sportif of the US-based Continental Under 23 Trek-Livestrong team.
He'll be joined by his father and 4,000 avid cyclists for a group ride through the vineyards and peach orchards of the Okanagan region. “I came up with the idea of starting a Granfondo last summer,” Merckx said.
“It’s not the first granfondo in Canada but it's something new here for sure. We're aiming for 2,500 participants and will cap it at 4,000. There'll be awards at the end and also a team classification for the fastest team time, combined of five riders from any team.”
The Granfondo Axel Merckx Okanagan will offer two challenging circuits with more than 1,300m of elevation gain. The Granfondo event is the longest distance at 158km, followed by the 98km Mediofondo and a Picolofondo for children. The event also offers a Classe Speciale for those who want star treatment, with full support and VIP access, and the Girofondo for cyclists with a competitive edge.
All categories will start and finish in Penticton. Participants will ride alongside parts of Lake Okanagan and Skaha Lake against the backdrop of the Rocky Mountains. “The Okanagan is a great wine region with beautiful roads and Penticton has hosted the Ironman for many years and is a great place to ride a bike among the wine country,” Merckx said.