Veronica Porter races up a long hill during the U Kon Echelon Bike Club 2020 Yukon Energy Road Cycling Championships in Whitehorse on July 25. That day was the only day of the competition with two races — a hill climb near Miles Canyon that morning and a hill climb in Porter Creek that afternoon. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)

2020 Yukon Energy Road Cycling Championships bring plenty of competitive spirit

The U15 boys GC came down to a sprint to the finish of the final stage

U Kon Echelon Bike Club held the 2020 Yukon Energy Road Cycling Championships in and around Whitehorse from July 23 to 26.

A total of 15 riders participated in five stages, with 12 completing all stages and earning a general classification ranking.

Things kicked off with a 17-kilometre time trial on July 23 beginning at the Carcross cutoff before stage two, a lap race around a circuit in Marwell, on July 24.

July 25 was the only day of the competition with two races — a hill climb near Miles Canyon that morning and a hill climb in Porter Creek that afternoon.

The final race of the championship was a road race beginning and ending at Army Beach on July 26.

While many of the categories only had one or two riders, there was no shortage of excitement.

“Yeah, you can move people together and everything else, but to me if only one person shows up, one person shows up. For me, … I don’t want to compete against people who are younger, faster, whatever, so I kind of like having my own category,” Trena Irving, coach and organizer said about the race categories. “I think for U13 it’s the same thing — you don’t necessarily want to compete against people who are 17 just because there aren’t people in your category.”

In the U11 boys category, Thomas Vollmer finished first in a total time of two hours, 39 minutes and 12 seconds.

At the U13 boys level, Alex LeBarge won with a total time of three hours, 14 minutes and 37 seconds. Johna Irving-Staley was just over two minutes back heading into the final race, but did not race on the final day.

“Alex ended up taking the U13 title, but even so, on Saturday he was ahead of Johna,” Irving said. “Who knows how that would have played out if Johna had raced? But it’s good because it’s friendly competition with somebody close to your age.”

Tori Vollmer won the U15 girls GC with total time of three hours, 35 minutes and 35 seconds.

The U15 boys GC was the closest of the entire weekend, with Taiga Buurman edging out Mack Jenner by just eight seconds overall.

Irving explained that heading into the final road race, the gap between Buurman and Jenner was just nine seconds when the three hit the road for the 73-km race.

“Taiga just happened to be ahead by nine seconds, which is nothing when you look at it,” Irving said. A breakway, losing the draft or any number of things could easily lead to a 10 minute gap in a multi-stage race.

The trio rode together for most of the race, with Irving using the opportunity to share knowledge about tactics, nutrition and hydration.

She said as the group neared the finish, she asked when the riders wanted to go.

“‘Well we’re all together right now,’ I said, ‘but there is going to be a sprint at the end. When do you want to go?’” Irving said.

Irving checked in at five, three, and two km out from the finish line and the answer was still not yet.

“We rounded the corner and we saw the sign and there was about 500 metres to go,” Irving said, explaining she’d warned them she’d give them a cue when the sprinting had to start. “So I yelled ‘go’ and I was out front and took off sprinting.”

The video of the finish, Irving said, told the tale of the race.

“Mack was right on my tire and Taiga was right on his tire,” Irving said. “Taiga came in and won the (GC) by eight seconds. … (If) Mack had attacked early on, then maybe he could have made up that time, but it was his first race and I’m fine with it. It’s not the end of the world if you don’t come first in the race, but it is (about) the tactics and the excitement of it.”

Buurman finished with an overall time of three hours, 35 minutes and seven seconds, while Jenner had a time of three hours, 35 minutes and 15 seconds.

Ava Irving-Staley won the U17 girls GC with a cumulative time of three hours, 12 minutes and 45 seconds.

The winner of the U17 boys GC was Noah Marnik with a total time of three hours and nine seconds. In second spot was Bruce Porter with a time of three hours, 32 minutes and 22 seconds.

In the last of the youth categories, Veronica Porter won the U19 girls GC with a time of three hours, 18 minutes and 31 seconds.

For her part, Irving won the masters women GC with a time of three hours, 34 minutes and 58 seconds.

In the expert men GC, David Jackson set the standard with a total time of two hours, 58 minutes and eight seconds.

Both Denny Bohmer and Geof Harries also raced in the expert men category, though neither completed all stages.

In the masters men GC, Mike Setterington finished in three hours and 33 minutes and 56 seconds.

With so much of the summer’s sporting calendar delayed or cancelled because of COVID-19, Irving said the recent races have been a much appreciated temporary escape.

“I love racing and I’m glad that we’re here,” Irving said. “I’m glad that we’re not as restricted as in other jurisdictions, so to me it was a privilege and a pleasure to be able to put it on, but also to be able to race in it and go fast … and just kind of, when you’re in the race, turn your mind off the stupid COVID because it affects every facet of life right now and it’s overwhelming. It’s nice to not think about it when you’re going hard on your bike.”

Perhaps more remarkable than even the battle for the U15 boys GC crown was the fact that all the races happened without any rain.

“We’ve been lucky and all five races we were lucky. We didn’t get rained on,” Irving said. “We didn’t have mud, rain or any of that. I can say (only) positives about the weather, honestly.”

The club is back in action this weekend for the Tour de Haines Junction on Aug. 1 and 2 in Haines Junction. The three-stage event includes a time trial and hill climb on day one and a road race on day two.

Information on the upcoming races, including how to register, is available online through the U Kon Echelon Bike Club Facebook group.

Contact John Hopkins-Hill at john.hopkinshill@yukon-news.com

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