Even in a 173-kilometre race, for Whitehorse’s Preston Blackie it’s all about the final 100 metres.
A sprint to the finish is the only way he’ll win a race of that distance, he says.
“It’s in my best interest to keep as big of a group together as possible,” said Blackie. “The more people in the group, the less work I have to do. For me the race begins 100 metres from the finish line, so I want to come into that spot in the most refreshed, best shape I can be.”
The strategy paid off for Blackie Saturday. The 37-year-old won the solo men’s and overall titles at the ninth annual Southern Lakes Yukon GranFondo, starting and ending at the Marsh Lake Community Centre.
Blackie, who won the two titles last year as well, finished with a time of four hours, 53 minutes and 16 seconds, posting an average speed of 35.2 kilometres an hour.
He managed to drop second place’s Joel Macht on the final stretch. Macht, who was also second last year, came in at 4:53:22. Aaron Foos placed third for solo men, fourth overall, at 5:04:14.
“They dropped me on the hill and I had to bridge up to them for probably four or five minutes by myself to catch them,” said Blackie. “I knew if I didn’t, that would be the end of my race, the end of my chance to win. They know they can out-climb me, so it’s in their interests to lose me in the hills. I knew if I could hang on to the Carcross cutoff I’d have a strong chance at winning because I can out-sprint them.”
Blackie, who won the Tour de Skagway two weeks ago, hopes to next claim the overall title at the Kluane Chilkat International Bike Relay. This, just months after he thought his cycling days were over. Early last December Blackie, a former professional mountain biker, broke his leg in the simple act of stepping out of his vehicle. An early diagnosis was cancer and he was told he could lose his leg. It turned out that Blackie’s tibia had been compromised by a bone infection.
Since his surgery he’s been highly motivated.
“This gives me good momentum going into (Kluane Chilkat),” said Blackie. “It doesn’t hurt the confidence any. My preparation for this was good and I’m definitely on the right track.
“As much as I want to win the solo, I want to win the whole thing. I want to be the first guy across the finish line.”
Whitehorse’s Kristen Magnusson had a busy weekend of riding. The 39-year-old won the solo women’s division Saturday before winning the expert women’s division of Contagious Mountain Bike Club’s Boogaloo Race the next day.
She finished the GranFondo in 6:00:12, in what was her first time in it.
“I really liked it. It was super enjoyable, well organized, lots of happy volunteers who were helpful,” said Magnusson.
“That was for sure my longest ride this year … I’ve put in a fair bit of miles this spring and I was happy with how my body felt and was able to push a little bit.
“The tailwind on the Carcross section was a nice reprieve. It made you feel like a rock star because all of sudden your kilometres per hour jumps up.”
Aisha Montgomery placed second for solo women at 6:32:00, ahead of Ann-Marie Paquet in third at 6:40:01.
Whitehorse’s Stephen Ball and Ian Parker will make up a tough team to beat at the Kluane Chilkat. They were the top duo team at 4:53:29 on Saturday, taking third overall behind Blackie and Macht.
“Basically, Steve did what he needed to do, but I was having an off-day,” said Parker. “But not to take away anything from Preston. It was well-deserved. He was strong this morning and he deserved to win.”
“He trains more than the rest of the riders in Whitehorse combined,” added Ball. “He’s training a lot and he’s getting results.”
Ball and Parker hold the course record in the Southern Lakes race, finishing in four hours and 42 minutes in 2013.
Lawrence MacIggly and Brian MacDonald placed second in duo men with a time of 6:16:59. Rob Dobson and Joe Morrison posted a time of 6:36:57 for third.
Kathleen Avery and Brad Avery claimed the duo mixed title at 5:40:44, three second up from Joy Vall and Rob Rees. Norm Curzon and Kealy Sweet picked up third at 6:08:15.
Niki Denault and Sierra van der Meer teamed up to win the duo women’s division, crossing the line in 6:15:42. Monika Melnychuk and Sarah Crane came in just under nine minutes later for second.
Bill Waugh, Grace Sheardown-Waugh and Ron Tait made up the top three-to-five-person team, winning the mixed title at 5:47:09.
Bill Curtis, Mike McCann, Nate Wood, Lee Carruthers and Peter Heebink missed the six-hour mark by eight seconds, but took the men’s team title.
Leigh Ayton, Veronique Herry, Erin Murphy and Liz McCarville finished in 6:47:41 for the women’s team title.
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