Whitehorse’s Elijah Buffalo has achieved a goal years in the making.
After coming close a few times, Buffalo won his first expert men’s title in the Tour de Whitehorse on Sunday.
“I’ve always wanted to win this one,” said the 32-year-old. “It’s good to check that one off.”
Buffalo placed first in all three stages in the Tour, finishing with a combined time of 2:45:12. Rob Rees took second in the GC for expert men at 2:55:06 and Chris Reynolds third at 2:57:22.
With Saturday’s individual time trial and Sunday’s road race doubling as the Yukon championships, Buffalo picked up those titles as well.
But it was definitely close in the latter. Buffalo out-pedaled Whitehorse’s Ian Parker in a sprint to the finish for the road race title, finishing the 84-kilometre course with matching 2:11:11 times. Aaron Foos, last year’s road race champ, placed third at 2:11:42.
“It was just fun riding with these guys today – fun ride, good weather, tailwind the whole way,” said Buffalo. “It was pretty tough the last few kilometres there – it was pretty fun.”
In 2013 Buffalo was leading the Tour after two stages but missed the final race due to family obligations. He finished less than a minute behind last year’s winner after three stages. (Preston Blackie, who won the expert men’s title the last two years, was absent from the Tour this year.)
Whitehorse’s Trena Irving kept the expert women’s title over the weekend. Irving, who won last year and in 2011, finished with a combined time of 3:08:37 after three stages in the event hosted by the VeloNorth Cycling Club.
“It was totally well organized,” said Irving. “(VeloNorth president) Mike (McCann) and Bill (Curtis) know exactly what they’re doing, so that part was just wonderful. They have volunteers to help them and they just organized a fantastic race.”
Irving also picked up the two Yukon titles, in addition to the Tour one. But as coach of Yukon’s cycling team and of the U Kon Echelon Cycling Club, Irving always prefers to talk about her pupils than herself.
“Just in terms of coaching, because not everything with me is about first, second or third, (sport men’s fourth place finisher) David Jackson rode with the pack the whole way in,” said Irving. “That was the icing on the cake for me. Sometimes it can be hard in a pack to figure out what you need to do and how to stay on someone’s wheel, and he did. So I’m super proud of him.”
Irving will be taking a team of three cyclists to compete in road and mountain biking at the Western Canada Summer Games next month in Wood Buffalo, Alta.
Sport division winners Sara Burke-Forsyth and Ian Hansen, as well as Shea Hoffman who was absent from the Tour, will race for Yukon at the Games.
Burke-Forsyth, 19, placed first for sport women with a combined time of 2:53:40, while second place’s Simi Morrison came in at 3:16:23.
“It was nice riding with a bigger group, we don’t usually have a big group to ride with,” said Burke-Forsyth. “Especially with the longer race. You can go so much faster when you have a big group.”
“The time trial (stands out) for me because we had all the gear on and it was weird but it was fun,” she added. “It was just different from how I’ve done time trials before.”
Hansen, 18, had a little less breathing room after three stages. He posted a time of 2:35:44, just up from second place’s Chris Rider at 2:36:36. Mike Setterington took third at 2:49:03.
“(The races) were good, pretty fun, kind of new,” said Hansen. “I’ve never worn any of the gear you usually wear. It was fun, trying to push yourself. Having fun with people who are similarly skilled – you can push yourself more.”
“Ian (Hansen) today, I was pretty impressed he caught up with the expert men,” said Irving after the road race. “I said that was awesome because he’ll probably be riding with that level at westerns.”
Other Tour division winners include Lucas Taggart-Cox in youth male and Mollie Fraser in youth female.
Fraser and second place’s Ava Irving Staley had close finishes all weekend.
“I gave them their race plan this morning and they were on their own for 32 kilometres and I said to do the sprint thing at the end,” said Irving. “They worked together and did what I asked them to do. I see all those kids who are 10, 11, 12, as my future. Four years from now they’re going to be coming to westerns.”
The 15th annual Tour de Whitehorse included a hill climb prologue up Robert Service Way on Friday, the time trial on the North Klondike Highway Saturday, and the road race on the Alaska Highway on Sunday.
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