Despite a near-freezing temperature, 40-kilometre winds and the threat of rain, the expert men’s division saw fierce competition at the Yukon River Road Race on the Alaska Highway on Sunday.
The top five riders in the 50-kilometre race, in what was the VeloNorth Cycling Club’s second event of the season, all finished within two-and-a-half minutes of each other. The first two over the lines were the closest of all.
Whitehorse’s Stephen Ball narrowly took first, out-sprinting Jonah Clark in the final stretch.
“There’s no beating him in the sprint,” said Clark. “I tried to get it to a high enough speed that he couldn’t kick very hard.”
Ball, who is a former national team rider for his native New Zealand, won the Yukon Road Race Championships last season.
“It was good. We had a good, solid group,” said Ball of Sunday’s race. “We all kind of led on the way out and broke up on the way back; some of us got away on the way back.
“I was just lucky enough to get it in the sprint,” he added.
Taking third was iron man competitor Jud Deuling, ahead of Elijah Buffalo, the winner of the club’s season opener in the expert class. Buffalo was in the lead pack but lost his chain with about a kilometre to go. In fifth was former Team Yukon rider Glenn Iceton.
In the expert women division, Jillian Chown took first on top of Trena Irving, who did not finish.
Ball and Irving will be ones to watch at the Kluane Chilkat International Bike Relay on June 16. Both cyclists will attempt to defend their solo titles in the 238-kilometre race between Haines Junction and Haines, Alaska. Last year’s race was the first in six years in which both the men’s and women’s solo titles were captured by Yukoners.
“I’d like to do that again. It depends on how many young guns turn out for it,” said Ball. “I’ll definitely try.”
“I’m just trying to juggle training kids and doing my own training, which is a big juggle because I’m training kids a few days a week,” said Irving, who also won the Tour de Whitehorse last July.
Clark, a two-time winner of solo men’s division in the Kluane Chilkat, will be riding on a two-person team in this year, as will be Iceton.
Deuling is entered in the solo men’s division.
Expert men (50 km)
1st Stephen Ball – 1:16:56
2nd Jonah Clark – 1:17:00
3rd Jud Deuling – 1:17:29
4th Elijah Buffalo – 1:18:28
5th Glenn Iceton – 1:19:26
6th Geoff Harries – 1:30:07
7th Lawrence Ignale – 1:35:20
Expert women (50 km)
1st Jillian Chown – 1:30:11
2nd Trena Irving – DNF
Sport men (50 km)
1st Sean Smith – 1:35:15
2nd Keith Parkkari – 1:39:15
3rd Rod D’Abramo – 1:39:22
4th Earl Banks – 1:39:23
Sport men (30 km)
1st Lowel Tait – 1:02:00 (unofficial)
Sport women (50 km)
1st Melanie Tait – 1:39:24
2nd Valerie Girrard – 1:39:39
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