The mountain bike team that will race for Yukon at the Canada Summer Games in August has been keeping busy.
The team has been riding together since May, often competing in weekly races and there’s plenty more to come before the Games in Sherbrooke, Que.
Two members of the team rode to the top of the standings of the Twoonie Race Series hosted by the Contagious Mountain Bike Club.
Spencer Skerget and Veronica Huggard were the top open male and female riders after the five-race series that wrapped up on Tuesday in the Chadburn Lake area.
It was Skerget’s second year in a row winning the series.
“It was good. I think for me it was just being consistent, showing up, trying my best every week and trying to get better,” said Skerget. “They are the same courses as last year and (my times) are down from last year too. Progressively going down, which is good.”
Huggard, 20, is in just her first year of competitive racing. She’s working hard but having fun, she said.
“I’ve been picking it up and I feel like my confidence is skyrocketing,” said Huggard. “Being the only girl (on the team), I look up to the guys. I’m pushing myself to be more like the guys. There are some good female riders here as well … I ride with them on Wednesdays.
“I’m super excited to go to the Games … I’m just here biking having fun.”
The upcoming Canada Games has a new format in which road cycling and mountain biking are completely separate events – held in different weeks, in fact. At the 2009 Games, cyclists competed in three road cycling races and one mountain bike race. This year there are two separate cycling teams, the road cyclists and the mountain bikers.
“So these guys are all dedicated mountain bikers,” said Yukon head coach Anthony DeLorenzo.
Skerget has the most experience mountain bike racing. The 20-year-old represented Yukon in cycling at the 2011 Western Canada Summer Games where he placed 10th in the mountain bike race.
Both he and Huggard raced at the 2013 Island Cup race series in Victoria, B.C., where they attend school. They both took in top-10 placings during the series.
Skerget took second in last month’s Boogaloos race behind David Gonda, a 2009 Canada Games cyclist and three-time Yukon mountain biking champion. Huggard placed fourth for females.
Skerget is from Watson Lake, a town that has produced top-level cyclists like Olympian Zach Bell and Jesse Reams.
He had a new set of wheels on Tuesday.
“I went to a hard-tail from a full suspension,” said Skerget. “It’s stiffer on climbs and stuff like that. But I’m realizing today it’s a lot rougher over the bumps and you have to use your body a lot more.”
The Yukon team, which also includes Massey Baker and Andrew Savard, will also prepare for the Canada Games with a couple high-profile events next month. The team will compete at a Canada Cup event and the Canadian Mountain Bike Cross-Country Championships in Ontario next month and will also attend a camp held by the national team.
“That’ll be our first real test against national level competition,” said DeLorenzo. “When we get back from that we’ll have a better sense of where we’ll slot in for Canada Games.
“(Huggard has) a lot of potential,” he added. “She’s really progressing, so it’ll be really interesting to see Veronica down at the national level. I think she can really surprise a few people.”
“I’m looking forward to heading to Ontario in July,” said Skerget. “These will be my first races at the national level, so I’m excited to see how I match up against the rest of Canada.”
With the Canada Games still weeks away, DeLorenzo is already looking to the following Summer Games in 2017.
Planning to make the 2017 Games a success is already underway.
This year’s Twoonie series included youth divisions for the first time, with under-17 and under-13 categories.
Boreale Mountain Biking has also begun a popular youth camp this spring.
“It’s a fantastic program and something we needed up here,” said DeLorenzo.
“This year, with the Team Boreale, we have a lot of young kids coming out and racing. So I want to start taking cyclists out to these cycling events – that’s my goal.
“It’ll be a four-year progression. We’re get them racing locally and build them up, take some of them to westerns (the Western Canada Summer Games) and onward and onward.”
Next year, instead of having the race series end in June, DeLorenzo plans to extend it through to August.
He is also hosting a mountain bike camp June 24 and 25. It will be an opportunity for him to identify riders for future teams.
“It’s going to be an awesome experience and I’m really excited for that,” said DeLorenzo. “Once this crew is done the Canada Games, all my attention is turning to these young athletes.”
To contact DeLorenzo, visit bikeyukon.com.
“The riding community here is really great and Cadence Cycle specifically has been really awesome,” said Huggard. “Cadence sponsored me to get a new ride.
“We’re all geared up with new wheels and it’s all going really great.”
Yukon has had Games success before in the sport. Whitehorse’s Daniel Sessford won Yukon its second-ever Canada Summer Games medal in 2005 for mountain biking.
Final top-five Toonie race standings
1st Spencer Skerget
2nd Pete Smilie
3rd Steve Ball
4th David Gonda
5th Josh DeCloet
1st Veronica Huggard
2nd Sierra van der Meer
3rd Tamara Geoppel
4th Kristen Magnusson
5th Jenn Roberts
1st Finn Matrishon
2nd Zak Endress
3rd Mason Pritchett
4th Daniel Sennett
1st Mackenzie Davy
1st Liam Mather
2nd Nichollis Schmidt
3rd Sam Mather
4th Hunter Vincent
5th Ethan Davy
1st Luanda Pronovost
2nd Sonjaa Schmidt
3rd Maible Matrishon
4th Dahlia LaPointe
1st Chris Rider
2nd Jeremie Matrishon
3rd Eric Huggard
4th Sandro Holzinger
1st Rachel Moser
Contact Tom Patrick at