The oldest Gravel Fondo in Western Canada is back again in Penticton after its pandemic hiatus, with dozens of bikers taking on the KVR trails.
Kettle Mettle Gravel Fondo Event Director Dean Stanton said that they were thrilled to be back in town with the bike race.
“When we first started this years ago, it was quite small. Now it's grown and getting more and more people,” he said.
“It's really good to see the whole thing grow and we're coming back and looking at the future and building this bigger and bigger.”
A Gravel Fondo is a bike race which takes place primarily on gravel and dirt with at least 85 per cent on gravel/dirt and less than 15 per cent on the pavement.
The event brings participants from across Canada and the United States to Penticton.
“I would say that 85 per cent or more of the people in this event are from outside of the Okanagan. We get almost 25 per cent from Alberta and we get Americans. Right now because we're still post-COVID, we've only got a handful of Americans. But pre-COVID we used to get more from Montana, Oregon, and Washington.”
Stanton said that the event draws people out because of the views along the KVR and the trestles.
Participants bike 50K from Chute Lake down to East Kelowna or the 100K or 130K from Okanagan Lake Park.
“What was interesting this year was we actually had more locals than we've had in the past. There was probably at least 10, or 20, from just Penticton and another 10, or 20. from Kelowna. It’s normally is not as high,” Stanton said.
“I feel like relative to other sports right now, cycling is a burgeoning blossoming area to be so it's good to be in what I'm doing.”
Stanton came up with the event after noticing the growing Gravel Fondo trend in the United States and trying one out for himself.
“I looked at the Okanagan and Penticton and I was like oh the Kettle Valley Rail Trail this would be perfect…It's a pretty iconic great tourist kind of route.”
The team also runs the Cowichan Crusher Gravel Fondo on Vancouver Island and the Sea to Sky Gravel Fondo in Squamish.
“Now it's kind of promoting tourism and gravel and everything throughout BC.”
Also in the Okanagan Valley this weekend is the multi-day B.C. Bike Race, from Sept. 16-22. With almost 250km of singletrack and 9,411 of elevation over the seven days, competitors will tackle terrain around Kelowna, Salmon Arm, Silver Star Mountain, Vernon, Apex Mountain, and Penticton and Naramata.