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Merckx Gran Fondo 2019

The Spandex Panda Velo Club shows up in fine form.

What a turn out we had for this!!! 9 riders from across western Canada and a ton of stories. This adventure had both 'classic' riders & modern day gems. No matter what the bike, the fun would be had all weekend. When you're in wine country, the 'warm up' rides have some pretty tasty destinations.

The Saturday before the event, several smaller groups headed out for 're-con' rides on different parts of the course. Myself, Simon & Michael headed south towards McLean Creek & found our way up to Blue Mountain for a glass of local bubbles. Quiet location with a great view of a part of the valley very few enjoy.

After our return to Penticton, we got ready for a little dinner get together with the riders & support team at Time Winery. It was fantastic to enjoy an evening as this was the first time many had actually met the entire squad. It's also a bit nicer to meet people with a glass of wine instead of for the first time on the start line or on the course.

Myself and Brent were riding the 'classics' category, which was a new one for the event this season. Brent had raced on his Olmo in the past & was excited to bring it back to life & ready for the event. I was on a Legnano from the mid '60's which I knew had some 'power' style gearing & would challenge the climbs & fly on the flats. Everyone else had their preferred rides & chosen distances. The full route was 160km with a half version that existed as well.

The start, like every year is a bit hectic from the corral to Summerland which is where the KOM is. It's not a far distance to get to this segment and the organizers try to spread out the start with a pretty good little hill right off the hop. With that said, any separation of where people want to be or who they want to ride with is made up on the decent and than the departure out of town. I always like this KOM, as I do most, when I have one of the classics out. The reason, it's a sleeper. People see it & assume that because it's 'an old steel bike' it will be heavy and I'll be very slow. Compared to the racing snappy riders, sure, but the difference is that there are only a limited number of gears so as long as those pedals move, we're going up. I love this because people's expressions as they're spinning their way up the hill as this old beauty rolls by them are priceless. There are less and smaller gears on the back so the speed has to be faster based on the power that has to go into the pedals to make them move. It's a great little climb with a bunch of fans along the side, cheering, which helps distract you from the sore legs.

After this climb it's 'cruisy' decent, back on the highway, through Penticton & time to head south. This stint is always a chance to make up some ground or catch up to someone if needed as there are some flatter sections and with a good group, you can roll pretty quick. Having numerous teammates on the road would allow for some work sharing which was what I was looking forward to. I had caught up to Simon and Michael, but not for a good reason. Turned out there was a crash and they were both involved. Something to the effect of a wheel rubbed I believe, Simon going down and Michael either going over him or bunny hopping him. I'll have to get that story again. Simon was a bit banged up and would eventually need a new kit at the end of the race as this one looked like a cheese grater got a hold of it. We got the fellas rolling again and came across Brent at the next rest stop who was making some good time on his Olmo. We rolled out together after a few snacks & Simon got taped back together til Mike got a flat. What should've been a quick & easy got complicated with an unfriendly tire that didn't want to play nice. This little extra time in the sun allowed Motoko to catch upto us which was great as we rolled together into the next rest station as a crew.

If you're into 'going for it' on the hills, than the Fairview climb is a bit of a challenge. The 'timer' on it starts before the golf course, but if you're in need of water or salt, you've gotta make the stop once you're already on the climb. The perk of it is that on this hot & sunny climb, there is always a gentleman at the top with a hose that gives the refreshing splash you're looking for. At this point, you've still got a few smaller climbs to get over but you're on the way home now.

Rolling down that last hill into Penticton is always a good feeling. You know you've got about 7km across town & than there's a cold refreshment, some stories and friendly faces waiting for you.

It was great to cheer on any riders we still had on the course & than sit around, socialize & hydrate as we compared stories. Our squad was lucky in the draw also as Brent won the 'classics' award with a signed Merckx Molteni Jersey. It was awesome to see Axel sharing a bit of family heritage passing on a jersey from his father which is a part of cycling history. We look forward to getting a squad like this together again for more events. The social, the camaraderie & the adventure on the bike made this one for the books. Thanks SPVC.

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