bc-100911-gran-fondo

Thousands of cyclists gather in downtown Vancouver in 2010 in preparation for Canada's first GranFondo race. ((CBC))

Organizers of one of the biggest bicycle events in Canada are looking to Banff National Park as the next venue.

More than 7,000 people are expected to take part in GranFondo Whistler this September, riding from downtown Vancouver to the top of Whistler mountain.

GranFondo organizer Neil McKinnon wants to bring this popular bike event to Banff National Park, starting and ending in the townsite of Banff.

But Sarah Elmeligi, a senior conservation planner with the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society, questions whether thousands of cyclists will appreciate and respect the Banff wilderness.

"The Banff triathlon is a good example. People come, they participate, and what have they learned about Banff National Park other than the fact they got to bike around the Minnewanka loop and it was really pretty?" she said.

Banff already has an annual bike race, Elmeligi added.

"One of the things we would like to see is some monitoring done on what potential impacts there are associated with that event, before we go approving similar events that are much greater in size," she said.

McKinnon said this event will showcase the Rocky Mountains.

"That's an emotional attachment that I think our riders would carry with them, other than any other top down communication about environmental stewardship."

GranFondo Canada runs the event in Kelowna as well, and is planning a similar event in Calgary.