PENTICTON, BRITISH COLUMBIA--(Marketwire - June 21, 2012) - Over recent weeks, the roads in and around the South Okanagan have been awash with spandex as cyclists gear up for the second annual Valley First Granfondo Axel Merckx Okanagan (VFGFAMO).
Attracting more than 2,000 riders in 2011, the VFGFAMO gives cyclists of all abilities the chance to experience a large, organized ride without the competitive element of racing. It also has tremendous economic spinoffs for Penticton and communities throughout the Okanagan.
Given the number of riders and fans and the average length of stay in the area, it is estimated the inaugural VFGFAMO generated more than $2 million in Penticton alone in 2011. And, 2012 is poised to produce an even bigger economic boost for the region.
"Having an event like the Valley First Granfondo Axel Merckx Okanagan in our backyard is fantastic," says Valley First president, Paulette Rennie. "As the title sponsor, Valley First is proud to play its part in showcasing our little slice of paradise, supporting the local community and attracting such tremendous economic benefits to the region. Last year was a great success; we're expecting this year's event to be even better."
With less than three weeks left until riders hit the road, training is peaking for many VFGFAMO participants. Popular in Europe, granfondo events allow riders to experience the rigours of a full pro-level race with the same support enjoyed by professional cyclists. However, the emphasis is not only on competition but also on participation.
Olympic medalist, Tour de France veteran and the driving force behind the VFGFAMO, Axel Merckx, is looking forward to the second staging of what is fast becoming a well-known and well-publicized event.
"Following the success of last year's ride, I'm really excited about our 2012 Granfondo," says Merckx. "New events are always tough to initiate, but Valley First provided us with instant stability and credibility in the Okanagan. July 8 can't come soon enough."
The VFGFAMO also has many community benefits as the event will again be supporting Valley First's signature cause, Feed the Valley. Like last year, leftover race supplies and recyclables will be donated to Feed the Valley. The event also benefits the Axel Merckx Youth Development Foundation, a not-for-profit initiative aimed to help develop young cyclists in Canada.
About Valley First
Valley First is a division of First West Credit Union, B.C.'s third-largest credit union, which has 37 branches and 29 insurance offices throughout the Lower Mainland, Fraser Valley, Kitimat and Okanagan, Similkameen and Thompson valleys. Led by Launi Skinner, First West has approximately $6.6 billion in assets under administration, more than 169,000 members and close to 1,400 employees.
About the Valley First Granfondo Axel Merckx Okanagan
The Valley First Granfondo Axel Merckx Okanagan is a fully supported ride featuring several categories and distances to challenge riders of all levels. The traditional granfondo will span 160 kilometres, while the shorter mediofondo will feature a 92 kilometre route. New for 2012 is the 55 kilometre cortofondo. The weekend of the Granfondo, July 6-8, will feature a full schedule of events leading up to, and after, the ride. For more information about the Valley First Granfondo Axel Merckx Okanagan, visit www.granfondoaxelmerckx.com.