The RBC Kelowna GranFondo isn’t billed as a race, but it didn’t stop Evan Guthrie’s competitive side from kicking in when first place was on line.
The 21-year-old national-class mountain biker from Peachland edged out seven other riders in a close finish to win the second annual 122 km event in three hours 27 minutes 49.2 seconds.
On a hot, muggy morning in the Central Okanagan, 765 riders made the trip from Kelowna to Vernon and back, with Guthrie holding off Larry Zimich of North Vancouver to win by a 1/2 second.
Vernon’s Matt Hewitt was third in 3:27:49.9, with Kelowna’s Peter Watson fourth in 3:27:49.
Just four seconds separated Guthrie and seven other cyclists, all of whom Guthrie enjoyed riding with.
“It was a really good group of guys that got together on the Predator Ridge climb and we just hung close from there,” said Guthrie. “We worked nicely together, made some jokes and had a really good ride.
“Like you said, it’s not race, but when you get anyone that’s been a bike rider, there’s going to be competition,” he added. “It was cool to win, but it was nice to see all the other first pumps coming across the line.”
The race for the women’s title was just as tight as Jennifer Schulz (30-39) of Kelowna narrowly edged out Vancouver’s Richele Frank by 4/10 of a second, placing 19th overall in 3:38:08.1.
Kelowna’s Eric Simpson finished seventh overall and won the men’s 50 to 59 age group in 3:27:51.
Kelowna’s Gil Oron won the men’s 60 to 69 age class and was 24th overall in 3:38:09.
As satisfying as the win was for Guthrie, he said the atmosphere at the second annual event was second to none.
“It’s an awesome event to have in town,” he said. “I’d heard a lot of good things about it, so to be in it this year was nice. It’s cool to see that many people out cycling and having a good time. It was good to see people along the course supporting people, too.”
A second event, the Medio, was run in conjunction with thre GrandFondo, a shorter, 60 km ride from Vernon to Kelowna.
Kelowna’s Graham Hood, a former Canadian Olympian, rode to victory Saturday in the Medio in a time of 1:38:14.
Fort McMurray’s Andy Horton was second in 1:48:55, while Brett Heilborn of West Vancouver was third in 1:49:49.
Kelowna’s Martin Cote was fifth in 2:04:19.
The first woman to finish the Medio was Kelowan’s Tamara Moran who was fifth in 2:04:21.
The Medio featured 78 riders, 37 men and 41 women.
From an organizational standpoint, the host committee was pleased with response of riders, who came from far and wide to bike in the Okanagan.
“Today was a terrific day for cycling, we are thrilled to be able to share the Okanagan with cyclists from across North America and as far away as Australia and the UK,” said Kevin Thompson, co-founder of the event. “There is an increasing interest in cycling and we’re incredibly proud to be part of its growth.”