Close finishes, near death experience at Canyon Mountain Crusher

Whitehorse’s David Pharand overcame adversity to win his division of the inaugural Canyon Mountain Crusher. He prevailed despite tough trails, fierce competition, oh, and falling off a cliff.

Whitehorse’s David Pharand overcame adversity to win his division of the inaugural Canyon Mountain Crusher on Saturday.

He prevailed despite tough trails, fierce competition, oh, and falling off a cliff.

On the final stage of the enduro race, along the clay cliffs in Whitehorse, Pharand was bucked from his bike and went head-first over the edge.

Amazingly, he was not hurt. The fine clay made it feel like landing in baby powder, he said.

“I was coming along the ridge and it was beautiful and sunny, trail conditions were perfect – we couldn’t have asked for a better course,” said Pharand.

“The next thing I knew I was going head-first over the cliff, down towards downtown in a very fast, direct route.”

Pharand’s first thoughts in free-fall was to halt his descent before he picked up too much speed and tumbled all the way down to 7th Avenue through the Whitehorse Community Garden.

“The first thought was: stop as quickly as possible,” said Pharand. “The folks in the communal gardens in that area work really hard, and I was really concerned about destroying raspberry bushes or any vegetables.”

Pharand was one of 23 riders to take part in the enduro race, a type of race gaining popularity in North America in which sections of downhill are raced with non-timed transition sections in between.

Despite having to do a little rock climbing on the seventh stage, Pharand was the fastest male rider on B Course with a time of 56 minutes and eight seconds.

Paul Burbidge rode to second place at 57:46, ahead of Dan Bedard at 1:18:01.

“Today was just phenomenal,” said Pharand, who is a coach for Boreal Mountain Biking. “The little bit of rain yesterday made for some of the best trail conditions you could ask for. It started off brisk

in the morning, which made great racing conditions. Once you get moving everything was fantastic.

“I had the best ride of my summer today … It was the most fun I’ve had on two wheels all year, for sure.”

The enduro race featured three stages on Grey Mountain followed by four stages on the west side of the valley, including Mount McIntyre.

Strung end-to-end, the race sections were about 30 kilometres long. Racers rode roughly 55 kilometres through the day, with the transitions from stage to stage. They also tackled about 1,600 metres of climbing.

After all that, only 19 seconds separated the top three male riders on the tough A Course that began with Money Shot, a double black diamond run on Grey Mountain.

Michael Abbott slipped into first at 1:05:46, just 14 seconds ahead of second place’s Massey Baker, who competed in mountain biking at the Canada Summer Games in Quebec a year ago. Ben

Gilbert was edged into third at 1:06:05.

“There was some good competition. I didn’t think I had it, but I was pretty consistent all day and it worked out,” said Abbott. “I just showed up to have fun and have a good ride with everyone, and it just worked out.”

Martina Knopp, the only female rider on the A Course, finished with a time of 1:28:54.

“This is honestly my first real race, but I’ve been mountain biking since I was a kid – the past 15 years, at least,” added Abbott. “This event seemed like a fun event so I decided to go for it.”

It was a close one on the female B Course as well.

Kristen Magnusson placed first at 1:06:32, ahead of Kendra Murray (1:08:27) in second and Christine Kirk (1:17:16) in third.

Magnusson went on to win the women’s Yukon mountain biking title the next day in the King of the Rocky Canyon championship.

“It’s been a great weekend with the enduro yesterday and this today,” said Magnusson on Sunday. “It was a pretty awesome weekend of mountain biking in Whitehorse, I’d say. I’m pretty sure we’ve covered a very significant portion of Whitehorse single-track in the last two days.”

The Canyon Mountain Crusher, which takes its name from gold rush-era name for Grey Mountain, was the second of three events that make up the inaugural Yukon Dirt Rush.

The Dirt Rush opened with the two-day CarCranked Festival in Carcross the previous weekend, which also featured enduro races. It wrapped up with the King of the Rocky Canyon – the Yukon mountain bike championship – on Sunday.

“It went well considering it was a pretty crazy plan to try to put on a race that spans both sides of the Whitehorse valley, and all courses where it’s point to point, not loops like a typical cross-country type race,” said Canyon Mountain Crusher organizer Jonah Clark. “Everything, pretty much, went as planned…

“It was a good test of the idea – proof of concept – and we’ll see how we can make it happen again next year and potentially grow it a little bit. There’s talk of making a series of the two (weekends) in future years, attracting people from out of town and things like that.”

See coverage of the King of the Rocky Canyon championships in Wednesday’s Yukon News.

Contact Tom Patrick at

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