The RBC GranFondo is back in the Okanagan Valley.
The 122 km friendly bike ride is not billed as a race, but a celebration of biking, tourism and the beautiful location.
RBC GranFondo now has three separate events in B.C. and Alberta—Whistler, Kelowna, and the brand new Banff ride scheduled later this summer on Saturday, Aug. 25.
Last year 1,200 people took part and as many are expected again this year for the Kelowna edition of the race on Saturday, July 14.
Organizers will have an accurate count on ride day, as participants are encouraged to pre-register, but can sign until Friday at the welcoming GranFesta event at the Delta Grand Hotel in Kelowna. The race starts early in the day, riders will start arriving as early as 5:30 a.m. at the Water Street start area for the 7 a.m. official start.
There are two routes to choose from the 122 km GranFondo and the Medio a 60 km route that commences in Vernon and finishes at the Celebration Plaza in downtown Kelowna.
The Medio is perfect for novice and beginning riders all the way to advanced who might find the 122 GranFondo course too challenging. The route will merge with the full GranFondo course so both Medio and GranFondo riders will share in the ride experience.
The GranFondo route is spectacular, with views of Okanagan Lake, Kalamalka Lake and Wood Lake. Heading north out of Kelowna, the riders will pass through Lake Country, through Carr’s Landing, before making the turn south in the rolling hills surrounding Predator Ridge, just above Vernon. The southern direction of the loop will bring riders down Hwy 97, crossing to the east side of Lake Country’s Wood Lake, through the community of Winfield and back to Kelowna.
With the route touching on all three communities there is a friendly rivalry going on amongst senior staff members in each City Hall. Each community volunteered a senior staff member to ride the Medio course. The individual City participants each bring their own blend of experience and training to the friendly ride.
Graham Hood, a former Olympic runner, is riding for Kelowna. When Hood isn’t at work in the Real Estate department for the City of Kelowna, he participates in triathlon, for him the Medio will be a short day on the bike. “It is still going to be a challenge, these sorts of things should be fun, it will be a neat day,” says Hood.
That attitude might be a bit of a stretch for Ryan Roycroft who is riding for the District of Lake Country. Roycroft is a planner with the District and his first step after volunteering for the ride was to send out an email to see if a co-worker or friend had a bike he could borrow. “I should be fun, hopefully I will have a few rides completed before the event,” laughs Roycroft.
Vernon’s Communication Officer, Courtenay Pitcher is happily laughing in anticipation too. Pitcher who has completed one sprint triathlon hadn’t been on a bike in a while when the Mayor of Vernon asked if she would like to participate. “I’m just going to go and have fun,” says Pitcher. As for any hope of keeping up in the friendly ride she just laughs, “Maybe the former Olympian will get a flat tire.”
It isn’t just various City employees taking to the roads. Local cycling enthusiasts are getting ready for the ride. Ingo Grady who works at Mission Hill Winery has been riding a road bike since 2006, he was an inaugural GranFondo rider last year and will be completing all three locations this year. “There are so many different riders who are doing the GranFondo for the sheer joy of riding,” remarks Grady.
He does have one warning about the route, the hill on Commanage Road in Lake Country is steeper than it may seem when driving it. “It helps to be familiar with the course; Commanage is well placed for a climb.”
Children have the opportunity to test out their bike skills too. One of the opening events is the Family Fundo, a free event designed for kids. You can bring your child with bike and helmet to the Dolphin Statues at Waterfront Park, Friday at 5:30 p.m. The Fundo ride will be led by former B.C .Lion player, Brent Johnson. Johnson started cycling after retirement to stay in shape and will be on hand to lead the event along the promenade.
“I think it is essential for kids to be able to watch adults, but to get out there as a child and participate is very important.”