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Welcome to the November issue of La Gazetta delle Granfondo – the official online newsletter of the Granfondo Axel Merckx (GFAMO).

Whitelake Road PavedThis month we are excited to have Challenge Penticton champion, Jeff Symonds, offer his thoughts on race preparation. As well, Vancouver-based coach, Paul Cross, discusses training with power. The only thing better than a smooth pedal stroke is a smooth road. To that end, we are very happy to report that South Okanagan road crews recently continued resurfacing on White Lake Road (part of the 2014 Granfondo course) to include the descent to Highway 97. This development will no doubt make the Granfondo safer and more enjoyable for all riders.

Further, to improve rider safety we have enhanced our staging approach at the start line for 2014. Riders are asked to indicate their anticipated average ride speed during the registration process. Using this information, riders will be sorted by speed and allocated to one of six start zones, with faster riders closer to the front of the start chute. Entrance to the start zones will be controlled.

Our 2014 GFAMO Holiday Gift Certificates will be available on our website ( on November 20th – the perfect gift for the spandex-clad cyclist in your life. We’ll also reveal details about our Early Bird Deadline Giveaway [HINT: it has two-wheels, a saddle and some carbon fiber with Trek written on it!].

Speaking of contests…

GFAMO November Contest
Register for the 2014 Cortofondo (55 km), Mediofondo (92 km) or Granfondo (160 km) by Friday, November 29th and you’ll be entered to win a ‘Chefs Menu for 2’ at the amazing Vanilla Pod Restaurant at Poplar Grove Winery in Penticton, B.C. (valued at $118). The Vanilla Pod recently received the TripAdvisor Certificate of Excellence (2012–2013) and was voted the Best of the Best in the Okanagan by Okanagan Life Magazine. And nothing burns off a great meal than 160 km ride through the South Okanagan…so register now!
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Registration Now Open

Registration for the following categories is now open:


Until Jan. 1, 2014

Jan. 2, 2014 to June 16, 2014

June 16, 2014 to July 6, 2014

(55 km)




(92 km)




(160 km)




Classe Speciale
(applies to the above category of your choice)

(only 150 spots available)

* Online registration closes on Sunday, July 6, 2014 at 11:59 p.m. All deadlines occur at 11:59 p.m. on the day listed above. All transfers and distance changes must be completed online by Sunday, July 6th, 2014 at 11:59 p.m. Visit the refund and transfer policy page for all the fine print details.

And to take your Granfondo Weekend to the next level, choose the Classe Speciale category, where you can ride any of the three ride distances (Granfondo, Mediofondo, or Cortofondo), and enjoy a first-class experience. The package includes an Alé jersey, shorts, and socks, as well as express package pick-up, a pre-ride staging area, a special event weekend reception and more. There are only 150 Classe Speciale spots, so register now.

Questions? E-mail us at:

Gran Fondo Riders

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GFAMO cycling Kit 50% Off2013 GFAMO Cycling Kit 50% Off

All of our 2013 GFAMO cycling jerseys and shorts are now 50% off!

Whether you’re looking for an extra pair of Italian-made bib shorts, a sleeveless jersey, or a regular jersey, we’ve got you covered at some amazing prices. Sizes are limited, and availability is based on a first-come, first-served basis.

Visit our Granfondo Store for more information and prices.

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Athlete Feature: Jeff Symonds (2013 Challenge Penticton Champion)

Jeff SymondsWhat would you do if you knew you would not fail? Or for the triathletes in the crowd, what would you do if you knew you didn’t have to run afterwards? The Granfondo Axel Merckx Okanagan (GFAMO) is a great way for triathletes to find the answer to this question. Granfondo events are a great opportunity to get out of your comfort zone and tear down any fears you might have. Whether your fears are related to how hard you can push, or whether or not you can cover the distance, the ‘Fondo will have an answer for you. 

Pacing is undeniably critical to triathlon success. We train and develop the ability to sustain that pace for incredible amounts of time. But sometimes it’s tough to mentally and physically breakaway from that pace. The excitement of a 2000+ person Granfondo start-line will provide you with an almost euphoric surge of motivation to push new boundaries. Adding to that motivation is that in an event of this size, there isn’t just one rider to chase, but an entire group. There is an almost endless supply of competitors to push you and encourage you to find a new level of performance. 

When I took part in the GFAMO in 2012, I found myself pushing extremely high wattages early on. If I had seen these wattages in a triathlon I would have slowed down and conserved myself for the run. But the beauty of the ‘Fondo is that there is no run. If you go too hard you don’t have to suffer through a 42.2 km death march, you can simply soft-pedal back to town. Because of this I threw caution to the wind and “got ugly out there”! I rode the like a maniac and attacked off the front. After riding hard all day I got to the finish-line expecting to be fully cooked. On the contrary, I felt pretty good. In the process, I found a new level of hurt. Three weeks later I took this knowledge and confidence into the Ironman 70.3 Calgary. I used the new limits that I had found in the ‘Fondo, to finish on the podium on the back of a strong bike and a solid run. 

Participating in supported group riding like the ‘Fondo is a great way to practice many elements of long course racing, without having to worry about the long recovery that comes with running. Pre-event jitters, pace, nutrition, hydration, equipment and mental strategies are all crucial elements to triathlon success that can be practiced in the ‘Fondo.

Until next time…Ride Hard and Smile Often. And don‘t forget to Get Ugly Out There!

Jeff Symonds

Jeff Symonds is a Canadian professional triathlete from Penticton B.C. In 2011, Jeff broke through with a 3rd-place finish at the Ironman 70.3 World Championships. Last August, he captured the inaugural Challenge Penticton title, averaging more than 38 km/h on the 180 km bike segment. Jeff now lives and trains in Vancouver, B.C.

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Sponsor Spotlight: Tree Brewing

Ever since our inaugural year in 2011, GFAMO finishers have enjoyed a complimentary Tree Brewing craft beer at the finish line. Let's just say this is one well-received tradition. 

Tree Brewing is once again back as the official beer sponsor of the 2014 GFAMO. Not only do they make great craft beer, but Tree is also an amazing supporter of the Axel Merckx Youth Development Foundation.

Tree Brewing offers some of the best craft beer in North America, and have recently released their Winter Character 12 Bottle Pack (with Knox Mountain Brown Ale and Trestle Extra Special Bitter), as well as their signature Vertical Winter Ale.

Tree Brewing

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Training: Playing with Power

This month’s training article comes courtesy of Paul Cross, a Vancouver-based fitness consultant and a partner in the FitFX Studio.

I’ve noticed a lot more athletes using power this past season than ever before. Now that the indoor season has picked up I have also noticed more athletes asking me why they should train with power. From where I sit as a full-time coach it’s pretty clear that riding with a wattage meter is becoming more popular. So what’s all the fuss about? If you’re curious about training with power but not yet familiar, please read on.  If you already use power I seek to give you some information that will help you use it more efficiently.

There is merit to having an honest conversation up front. What kind of rider are you and where are your priorities and goals with regards to your cycling? Some of you may not admit to being “competitive”. While you may not enjoy “racing”, I have never met a person who did not enjoy improving his or her performance. Plain and simple...we like progress, and power aids progress. The decision to get power, however, should ultimately come down to weighing your desire to improve your cycling with the cost to do so. If we do that rationally we purchase power meters BEFORE spending money on other stuff like $10K bikes, carbon fiber wheels, a third bike, a fourth bike, or a closet full of Rapha clothing.

What is power? It’s pretty simple really…power is a measure of work over time.  It’s measured in watts. While it might seem as easy as visualizing the amount of pressure or torque you’re putting into the pedals, it’s in fact a little more than that. The same amount of pressure at 80 revolutions per minute (rpm) and 100 rpm will give you lower and higher wattages relatively. This is because you are doing less or more work per minute. If you’re cruising along on a pancake flat road at 90 rpm in an easy gear, and then you switch into a harder gear and while maintaining an identical cadence, you will also be applying more power. In this case the amount of pressure on the pedals has increased. One thing is certain, more power means more speed.

Why Power? I first started training with power on a CompuTrainer (a computerized indoor trainer) back in the early 90s. I got immediate results. I was working smarter, riding steadier and the rate of my progress increased. Using a power meter can make you a better rider. Quick example: An athlete I’ve been coaching for a couple of years rode with me the first year with no power. Then I suggested he try it. He did and within only a few workouts he was singing the praises of power. Now even though he doesn’t ride with power all the time he says it transformed his training and racing, permanently making him a better cyclist. This kind of positive feedback is typical in my experience. 

If you know how to use the numbers power can be the most beneficial training tool you have. Your riding buddies may be kind, but the power meter will not embellish.  As I am fond of saying, “the numbers don’t lie”. If you started too hard the power file will show that. Of course, you need to download it and look at it. Do you have a lot left in the tank at the end of your event? The power file will show that too. If you’re not riding steady the power will clearly reflect that. Conversely if you ride like a super-hero the power will give you the proof that you have done so. 

Cycling is an endurance sport. For any activity where endurance is concerned, efficiency is paramount. Efficiency means being more steady. If you are applying steady power, you are efficient. If your power is changing quickly from 100 watts to 400 watts to 200 watts – up down and all over the place – you’re not going to be very efficient. This is actually how a lot of people ride a bike, often without realizing it. Their ego gets the better of them and they need to pass that rider in front only to have to slow down later. Perceived effort is not a bad way of controlling yourself to ride steady. Heart Rate is a better way of controlling your pacing. But ultimately power is the best way. 

Another athlete I coached this past season was new to training with power in the spring. He had thought of himself as a “weak climber”. What we discovered quite quickly by taking a look at his power files is that he was starting the climbs way too hard. At the beginning of the climbs his power was spiking up to about 130, 140 and even 150% of his lactate threshold. This is a sure way to set yourself up to climb poorly. Once he started to approach the climbs much more conservatively at a wattage closer to his threshold, he started climbing better. He was more able to keep up (even beat) some of the guys in his riding club. Some of these guys had previously been ahead of him on the climbs. 

Let’s keep in mind that riding well is not all about the physical stuff (i.e. strength, skill, stamina and speed). Riding well is also about confidence. More confidence means better execution on the road. In a study of returning Olympians, the number one thing that athletes said they would have, could have or should have worked on more before the Games was mental skills. Bring your A-mental game and chances of both success and enjoyment increase. Confidence breeds excellence. Uncertainty breeds mediocrity and possibly failure. And power provides the information to build confidence on race day.

Athletes will sometimes cite heart rate as an excuse to not get power. In the absence of anything else, heart rate is awesome. It’s just not as good as using power and heart rate together. Where does heart rate play into the mix? Well, heart rate is telling you how you are responding to the work. If you are in better shape, then you will respond to the work by not being as tired, relatively. Let’s say you start riding in the off-season out of shape – for example, at 150 watts for five minutes your heart rate is 165 beats per minute. After months of training you may be able to ride at 195 watts for five minutes at the same 165 beats per minute. Ultimately, it’s rather hard to know this unless you’re using a power meter.

Accurate power tools for cyclists are more available now than ever before. Of course, you can also purchase power tools that are not as accurate. There are plenty of options out there. Which power tool should you get? That’s a question that demands it’s own dedicated article. Should you get hub-based, bottom bracket-based, pedal-based, or crank-based power? It all depends on several factors. The purpose of this article is not to debate the merits of different power tools available on the market. I do hope I have shed some more light on why people are choosing to use power meters and how you can benefit from getting on that bandwagon. I will say this, however, in regards to power meters: the “get what you pay for” axiom applies. Pay for a decent power meter or don’t bother. Like grandma used to say: “do something right or don’t do it at all”.  Some of the decent power meters available include: SRM, Power-Tap, Garmin Vector Pedals, Quark, and Stages. 

So…are you ready to start playing with power?    

Paul Cross is an exercise consultant, owner of Cross Athletic Consulting, and partner at Vancouver’s Fit FX Studio. Paul can be reached at:

Granfondo Riders
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Interested in Sponsoring the 2014 Valley First Granfondo Axel Merckx Okanagan?

Become a sponsor today. The benefits that come from your association with one of the premiere athletic and cultural events of the summer are obvious. Strong brand. Well organized. Great cause.

With as many as 3,000 cyclists and countless friends and family members taking part, your name and brand will be front-and-centre throughout the weekend. For information on sponsorship opportunities, e-mail:

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Ride Hard, Smile Often