Unique event offers participants chance to cycle across South Okanagan with Olympic champion

By on May 14, 2014

If the idea of cycling across the gorgeous South Okanagan and being accompanied by an Olympic medalist has any appeal, you might want to sign up quickly for a truly unique event being hosted by Black Hills Estate Winery in Oliver.

The Ride With a Winemaker cycling tour is taking place over the May 23-24 weekend.

The organizers of the event are pleased to announce that Kelsey Serwa, the silver medal winner in the Sochi Olympics in the women’s ski cross event, has joined on as both a rider and co-host, said Pauline Gagnon, the general manager of hospitality at Black Hills Estate Winery.

“Our chief winemaker Graham Pierce is an avid cyclist – he’s actually away this week cycling in Italy – and he came up with the idea,” said Gagnon. “He obviously has some contacts and was able to get Kelsey willing to participate.

“It’s going to be a pretty amazing event and we’re hoping this will be the beginning of something that will become an annual event for our winery and cyclists in the South Okanagan.”

There were only “eight or nine” spots still available as of last Friday for the Ride With A Winemaker cycling tour, that will see 30 riders participate in the inaugural tour, said Gagnon.

Serwa was born and raised in the Okanagan and apart from being the new hometown hero as an Olympic medalist, she is also an avid cyclist and her infectious enthusiasm and personality will be great for the tour, said Gagnon.

Further, winemakers Matt Holmes from Liquidity and Amber Jones from C.C. Jentsch Cellars have signed up for the ride and the weekend festivities, she said.

“Having Matt and Amber come along as both great cyclists and great winemakers adds another element of fun to the Winemakers Ride,” said Pierce, in a press release. “We are thrilled to be having them joining Kelsey, myself and several others for this beautiful ride of the Okanagan”

For diehard cyclists, the tour will replicate some of the more challenging aspects of the GranFondo cycling event that takes place from Penticton to Osoyoos in July.

“This will be a great tune-up ride for those considering riding in the GranFondo in July,” said Gagnon.

“For those wishing something more leisurely, we will have two other, less intense ride options for you. We will have a support vehicle service for the ride.”

The fun will kick off on Friday, May 23 with an introductory barbecue dinner at Black Hills Estate Winery and this will be followed by an exclusive special barrel tasting with Pierce in the Black Hills Cellar.

On Saturday, participants will gather around 8 a.m. and indulge in pre-ride snacks, including coffee, smoothies, bars, cookies, fruit, bagels, muffins and water at the Black Hills Wine Experience Center.

The ride will begin at 9 a.m..

For the serious riders, the long ride will be the southern portion of Axel Merckx Gran Fondo route.Starting from the winery, participants will head down Black Sage road, then up the west side of the valley, up the gruelling Fairview cellars climb and into Willowbrook.

At this point riders looking for the shorter 65-kilometre ride will turn towards See Ya Later ranch and ride back to Okanagan falls before heading south back to Black Hills.

Riders looking for a longer ride will turn left and head along White Lake Road towards the Observatory. When they reach Highway 97, riders can decide if they want to head to Penticton on a route that will cover 100 kilometres or head south on a ride that will cover 75 kilometres.

A barbecue lunch and post-ride celebration will begin around 1 p.m. at the private residence of the estate owner. The rest of the day and the weekend are free to do whatever you want to, said Gagnon.

The package does not include hotel accommodations, however, special reduced rates are available for participants at the beautiful Walnut Beach Resort in Osoyoos, she said.

The entire package is available at $249 per person.

To register and for further information, please contact Graham Pierce at graham@blackhillswinery.com or by contacting Gagnon at 250-498-6606. Routes subject to change depending on weather and road conditions.

KEITH LACEY

Osoyoos Times

 

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