Close finishes in VeloNorth season opener

With 23 riders, there were 10 fewer competitors kicking off VeloNorth's race season than last year. However, competition was fierce - especially in the expert women division.

With 23 riders, there were 10 fewer competitors kicking off VeloNorth’s race season than last year. However, competition was fierce – especially in the expert women division.

Whitehorse’s Kerrie Paterson, formerly of Teslin, began the season on top, winning the expert women class at the Carcross Cutoff South Alaska Highway Time Trial on Wednesday, VeloNorth Cycling Club’s first competitive event of the season.

“It went OK – it hurts, it always hurts,” said Patterson. “I felt pretty good, except for my lungs really hurting.

“I’m training to do a half-Iron Man in the summer down in Vancouver, so I haven’t spent as much time on the bike than I normally do. I try to swim more.”

Completing the 18.5-kilometre course that takes cyclists 9.25 kilometres south down the Alaska Highway from the Carcross Cutoff and back in 30 minutes, seven seconds, Paterson finished less than a minute ahead of the division’s other three riders. Being a time trial with individual starts, it is no easy task to determine one’s own standing during the race until the times are calculated – there’s no sprints to the finish line to determine first and second.

“Generally you have your eyes on the person in front of you and you’re gauging how much you’re gaining on them, or how much farther ahead they’re getting,” said Paterson. “So you’re aware of that, but mostly I keep my head down and just go. I try not to think too much about who’s in front of me or who’s behind.”

Paterson, who has won the Kluane Chilkat International Bike Relay women’s solo division the last two years, narrowly outpaced Trena Irving by 25 seconds and third-place finisher Sierra Van der Meer by 28.

In the expert men division, results were a little less close with the top five cyclists coming in within two minutes of each other.

Snagging the top spot was Jonah Clark, a fixture in Yukon cycling events, completing the course in 25:30, 37 seconds up from second-place finisher Ian Parker.

“We do an indoor spinning class series at Icycle Sports and I was the guy who ran that all winter, so I spun two or three times a week in the shop and that was definitely good,” said Clark. “I had a good race. I pushed as hard as I could and didn’t feel bad, considering it was the first race of the year.

“It’s about focus. Keeping it on the edge where you’re about to blow up and keep it there most of the time.”

The length of the time trial course may seem like a bit of an odd number, but organizers chose the turnaround spot for safety reasons, picking a location where cyclists can see approaching traffic hundreds of yards in each direction. Unlike most other courses, by doubling back on the highway, riders can get a better idea of how their competition is stacking up.

“You know everyone started at 30 second intervals in front or behind you, so you kind of keep track,” said Clark. “Since this course is an out-and-back, you get to see the people chasing you, how far behind you they are. So you get a little bit of a gauge of how you’re doing.

“But time trials are mostly about focusing on your own individual effort and not worrying about other people around you.

“You never know, someone could look like they are gaining on you but they’re just blowing themselves up.”

In the sport divisions, Nathan Leenders came first for the men with a time of 29:57 and Shannon Meekins won for the women, coming in at 34:14.

Contact Tom Patrick at