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Canadian mountain bike championships comes to an end

Atheletes from Alberta, British Columbia, Quebec, Nova Scotia, Ontario and the Yukon competed
Minty Bradford, 15, won first place in the U17 category. (Courtesy/Patrick Egwu)

More than 200 mountain bike racing fans gathered at Whitehorse Cross Country Ski Club on Sept. 3 to cheer on cyclists from around Canada participating in the Canadian Cross-Country Marathon Mountain Bike Championships and challenge category races.

The championships ran from Sept. 1 to 3 and were organized by the Cycling Association of Yukon (CAY) in collaboration with Cycling Canada.

Mountain bike athletes from Alberta, British Columbia, Quebec, Nova Scotia, Ontario and across the Yukon competed in the hopes of securing Canadian titles in the cross-country marathon (XCM) discipline.

As part of the championships, the CAY organized a larger Yukon Bike Fest, which started Aug. 26. It was a week-long series of activities around the national championships. More than 1,500 people attended the bike fest and the national championships.

CAY president Geof Harries said the bike fest was aimed at promoting and celebrating cyclists in the territory.

“We merely wanted to encourage people to arrive early, spend some time in the Yukon and not just come for the race itself,” he said.

“No matter if you are racing or just riding a bike to work or maybe a three-year-old kid, the fact that you are riding a bicycle is enough reason for us to like to celebrate it through these events and activities, and most of them are free,” Harries said. “We want to make sure that the Yukon Bike Fest is for everybody. It’s inclusive for everybody.”

Harries said it took almost two years to organize the event, following approval of the hosting right from Cycling Canada. The last championship was held in 2019.

“It’s been amazing and also a lot of work to put this together,” he told the News. “There are about 75 people participating in the national championships, and half of them are Yukoners. We are getting a lot of benefits as the Yukon cycling community from these events.”

Harries said people from outside the territory participated in the events in order to have the “Yukon experience.”

The championship had two courses. There was a 30-kilometer course for everyone. This included all of the categories except U13. Depending on the category entered, the total distance was either 30 km or 60 km, which covered two laps, or 90 km, which covered three laps.

For the youngest racers, U13, the course was 20 km and excluded the most difficult sections of the Rock Lobster trail. There were also ride-arounds for the more challenging features of the course.

The first person to cross the finish line was awarded the coveted maple leaf jersey and became the new Canadian Champion.

Andrew L’Esperance, who completed the three laps for a total of 90 km in the elite men category, took first place with a time of 4:21:15.3.

Malcolm Barton won second place with 4:28:21.2, while Cory Wallace, an athlete from Jasper, Alberta, placed third with a time of 4:30:23.8.

Wallace said it was an awesome and challenging course.

“The last lap was pretty hard, and it’s the longest championship we have had in Canada for a while, which is good because it’s a marathon, and it’s supposed to be challenging, and this one was,” he said.

Wallace has previously won the Canadian marathon championships twice in Quebec and B.C. in 2014 and 2015. He was also a runner-up four times in a row and was a four-time winner of the world 24-hour solo championships.

Wallace, who has been biking professionally for almost 13 years and in total for nearly 20 years, said he likes the trails, routes and beautiful scenery in Whitehorse, which is pretty similar to where he grew up in Jasper.

“Riding in the Yukon has been special. It has exceeded my expectations, so I’m excited to come back and explore it further,” he said.

Whitehorse resident Minty Bradford, 15, won in the 30 km U17 girls category. She was awarded a trophy and a $3,000 Canadian Enduro League prize certificate.

“It was really awesome,” she said. “It’s really fun to have the big race here and to have all these people from across Canada down here to race up here, which is really special.”

Bradford said she has not really participated in a bike race professionally before but has been mountain biking in the territory for the last 10 years.

“I grew up mountain biking, and it’s pretty awesome to get to participate in the race,” she said.

Alex Lefebvre, from Peterborough, Ont., who finished in 5:48:50, said it was an extremely hard race. He told the News it was his first time doing a race this long.

“It was certainly one of my favourite courses that I have raced before. It was like a true mountain bike, very raw with tons of routes. It was tough, but the trails were amazing,” he said.

Sarah Baert, another cyclist from Guelph, Ont. who did the 60-km course, said it was tough because it’s not the same as in Ontario.

“In terms of effort, this was by far the hardest race I’ve ever done. Sixty km in Ontario is not the same as here, and 60 km in mountain biking is a lot rougher, the consequences are a lot higher,” Baert said.

She said it was “such a well-designed course that was hard and mixed with beautiful vistas, combined with some sections that were just joyful and fun. The crowd here was amazing. I don’t think I went more than five km, and there are people out there cheering.”

Cycling Canada Technical delegate Jolène Dupuis said she worked with organizers to ensure the race was up to standard and had the look and feel of a Canadian championship.

“I was looking forward to seeing the community feeling with this race, and we are hearing a lot of positive feedback from the athletes and listening to their experiences and how we can promote the Yukon for future events,” she said.

“It’s been a harder race to run because it’s a larger race,” she said, noting that part of the goal of the race was to “showcase the Yukon because we all love it here and people want to come back so for us it’s really important to shine that light and bring communities together.”

At the race site, a community expo featuring local vendors and youth and kids activities took place. A Winterlong Brewing beer garden was available, while free pizza from Domino’s pizza, free Timbits and coffee from Tim Horton’s were handed out to participants and race fans. Air North, one of the event sponsors, handed out branded T-shirts to spectators.

The championships came to a close on Sept. 4 with the CAY President’s Gravel Recovery Ride and volunteer party at Winterlong Brewing.

Harries told the News that people want the race to happen again next year, but he is unsure if that would happen.

“We wanted to celebrate Yukoners on bikes, and we had many local participants in the Yukon Bike Fest activities,” Harries said. “It was incredible; people loved the experience, and I think it was amazing to have everyone here.”

Contact Patrick Egwu at

Patrick Egwu

About the Author: Patrick Egwu

I’m one of the newest additions at Yukon News where I have been writing about a range of issues — politics, sports, health, environment and other developments in the territory.
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