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Trip Report: Granfondo Axel Merckx Okanagan

Saturday, July 16th, 2016

When you picture your dream retirement, I’ll bet you’re somewhere sunny. There are probably some fresh water lakes, some lush golf courses, some beautiful vineyards and an endless number of delicious riding routes.

Basically, you’d be describing BC’s Okanagan.

The quiet Okanagan town of Penticton has all of the above, including lots of retired people. But in early July each year, a few thousand spandex clad people from the Lower Mainland and Alberta descend on the city for Granfondo Axel Merckx Okanagan. A dozen of us were in this crowd for three nights and four days of summer fun. We rented a huge home with a panoramic view of the valley and a chef’s kitchen. We enjoyed some great home cooking but also fit in visits to The Bench Market and Theo’s.

On Friday, we woke up early to watch the Tour de France in the Pyrenees, then rode our bikes south to the beautiful Black Hills Estate Winery for a winery tour and barrel tasting experience.

Tapping barrels at Black Hills Estate Winery

Tapping barrels at Black Hills Estate Winery

Saturday’s itinerary included packet pickup, a light ride, a swim in Okanagan Lake and some Tickleberry’s Ice Cream.

Okanagan sunset on Saturday night

Okanagan sunset on Saturday night

Axel_GF_2016

2,500 cyclists rolling out from the start of the 6th annual event

Sunday was race day with 55K, 92K, 126K and 160K options. The 160K Granfondo is the most popular with close to 1,100 participants. It’s also the most competitive. Past winners are pretty-much all pros and this year it was multiple Ironman champion, Peter Reid, first across the line ahead of 21 year-old American UCI Continental pro, Greg Daniel. They averaged 39.7 k/hr!

A while later, we were all finished – with wet towels around our necks and cold beers in our hands. It was a grand trip to the Okanagan. We all agreed that we’ll be back a few more times before retirement!

One response to “Trip Report: Granfondo Axel Merckx Okanagan”

  1. Ian says:

    Nice report. I’ve always wanted to get out west to the Okanagan for some road riding!

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