Valley First

Valley First

February 23, 2012 13:11 ET

Valley First Granfondo Event and Economic Benefits Returning to Penticton This Summer

PENTICTON, BRITISH COLUMBIA--(Marketwire - Feb. 23, 2012) - Following its hugely successful inaugural staging in 2011, the Valley First Granfondo Axel Merckx Okanagan (VFGAMO) is returning to Penticton this summer.

Last year, the Valley First-sponsored event brought an estimated $2 million to Penticton and attracted more than 2,000 cyclists including Axel and Eddy Merckx, former Canuck Trevor Linden, other celebrities and many local riders and Ironman enthusiasts. Valley First is again the title sponsor of this cycling event being held over July 6 to 8, 2012.

"The Valley First Granfondo Axel Merckx Okanagan was a fantastic addition to the South Okanagan calendar," says Valley First president Paulette Rennie. "This event, which focuses on inclusion and participation, also had huge economic spinoffs for our city and allowed us to showcase our local communities. Valley First is proud to lend its support to an event with such wide appeal and economic benefits."

The Valley First Granfondo Axel Merckx Okanagan was the first large-scale cycling event of its kind to be held in the Okanagan Valley. Popular in Europe, Granfondo events allow riders to experience the rigors of a full pro-level race enjoyed by professional cyclists. However, the emphasis is not only on competition, but also on participation.

"In building our inaugural event it was very important for us to connect with a strong, local presence in the Okanagan region," says VFGAMO owner Axel Merckx, who now calls the Okanagan home. "New events are always tough to launch, but Valley First provided us with instant stability and credibility. This has allowed us to increase the number of entrants and add a fun, competitive element to this year's event."

That competitive element is the VFGAMO's addition as the only North American stop on the UCI World Cycling Tour. This new competitive twist gives all Granfondo category riders the chance to qualify for the UCI World Tour final in South Africa. The new 55 kilometre Cortofondo has also been added to the event program. This shorter course will appeal to those who have seen major events pass through the region, but have been deterred by the longer rides.

The VFGAMO also shares Valley First's goal of eliminating hunger in the area and has partnered with its Feed the Valley initiative. Competitors will be able to donate both food and funds to Feed the Valley. Event organizers have also committed to donating any unused race non-perishables and race bottle recycling refunds to the local food bank.

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. First West has approximately $6.2 billion in assets under administration, 167,000 members and 1,300 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 160km, while the shorter Mediofondo will feature a 92km route. The new 55km Cortofondo will cater to those returning to physical activity. 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 Granfondo Axel Merckx Okanagan, visit: www.granfondoaxelmerckx.com.

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