It was a sea of bikes, spandex, and helmets as thousands of cyclists flooded the South Okanagan on Sunday for the 10th annual Okanagan Granfondo.
The event has been on hold since 2019 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, which contributed to the record number of participants this year.
Cyclists rode through Penticton, Summerland, Okanagan Falls and Oliver, and organizers say the event went off without a hitch.
“I would like to say an enormous thank you to our volunteers, sponsors, and the businesses of Penticton because without them we couldn’t have made this event happen in this beautiful city,” said Merckx.
“We started it with wave starts this year, which made everything a lot more safe out on the road and everything went very smooth.”
Large events like Granfondo provide a huge economic impact to the community specifically in the hospitality and tourism sectors, which is much needed after a two-year hiatus from events.
The City of Penticton echoed that Granfondo has proven to benefit the community.
“It’s a fabulous event for the city of Penticton. It’s a huge economic development for the city of Penticton,” said the Mayor of Penticton John Vassilaki.
“It fills up our restaurants, our motels and hotels and all the other facilities that are required for all these folks to be here. It really brought up the economy for those facilities and revenue coming in that they’ve been missing for the last two and a half years. So, it’s a huge, huge event for those folks.”
The event also raised over $70,000 for the Desmoid Foundation which the Merckx family holds close to their heart.
“My daughter is battling the disease. It causes tumors in your body, and she’s been battling it since she was 13 and she’s 17 now,” said Merckx.
“We’ve actually raised over $200,000 Over the last two years for the foundation to try to find a cure.”
By nearly all accounts the event was deemed a success by event organizers.
“Our team is beyond thrilled with the end result — a successful day enjoyed by thousands of cyclists and visitors, supported by 350 of Penticton’s finest volunteers,” said Merckx in a press release.
Registration for next year is already open and spots are already filling up.