Enduro racers crank it up in Carcross

Dozens of riders took part in the three-day CarCranked Festival from Saturday to Monday in Carcross.

CARCROSS

Yukon mountain bikers got a “dirt rush” over the weekend.

Dozens of riders took part in the three-day CarCranked Festival from Saturday to Monday in Carcross.

The mountain bike festival was the first of three events over two weekends billed as the Yukon Dirt Rush.

“We were all really pleased with how it went,” said CarCranked organizer Jane Koepke. “We were calling it a test event, so we were trying out a bunch of different ideas just to see what people responded to. And testing our own systems as well to see what we had capacity to do and offer…

“It was a nice, small, enthusiastic group who came out and supported the event and we managed to test our systems and figure out what we need to do better. I think we’re all really excited to start planning for next year.”

The festival featured bike clinics, guided rides, a scavenger hunt, a mountain bike movie night and barbecues.

But what got a lot of cyclists fired up most was an enduro mountain bike race on Montana Mountain on Saturday.

Thirty-five bikers took part in the enduro, a type of race gaining popularity in North America in which sections of downhill are raced with non-timed transition sections in between.

“I was just out there trying to not crash and ride as fast as possible,” said Whitehorse’s Jonah Clark. “It seemed to work.”

It certainly did.

Clark took first in the open men’s division, completing the four legs in 23 minutes and 32 seconds, just 20 seconds ahead of second place’s Derek Crowe.

“I just got a new bike. I got a hard tail – no rear suspension – so I was quite surprised to be as close as I was to Jonah,” said Crowe. “I thought I’d be fifth or something. I guess I know the trails.”

Clark, a two-time Yukon mountain bike champ, also won the solo men’s division at the Kluane Chilkat International Bike Relay in June.

Julien Revel, a past downhill champ at the Sima Slamfest, claimed third at 24:24 on Saturday.

“The strategy is you want to get there so you don’t have traffic to deal with on the downhills, but you don’t want to go too hard because you’re still pedaling a lot on the downhill,” said Crowe. “I found it very strategic and I think that’s why I did well.”

“It’s fun. The format is wicked,” said Clark. “You get to ride up and you get to chat. And you can rest up at the top of every timed section and get ready, get psyched up, hangout with everyone for a bit, bomb down the downhill and you’re done.

“It’s a lot more social than cross-country (racing).”

The stages were about two or three kilometres long, give or take, and featured sections that allowed riders to reach up to 60 kilometres an hour.

Whitehorse’s Sierra van der Meer reached high speeds. She took the open female division with a winning time of 29:27.

“It was really fun. I really like those trails and it was a blast to go on them,” said van der Meer. “It was a fun social event. It was great to see everyone out there.

“Because you were only racing the sections, there was lots of time just hanging around talking to people.”

Van der Meer, who is the president of Yukon’s Contagious Mountain Bike Club, also won the women’s title at last month’s Singlespeed World Championships in Anchorage, Alaska.

Miriam Lukszova rode to second at 32:03 and Christine Kirk third at 32:45 in Carcross.

Liam Mather says he’s been mountain biking “almost since I could walk.” It showed on Montana Mountain.

Mather took first in the one-stage youth male division. The 13-year-old finished in 7:21 to place first ahead of brother Sammy Mather at nine minutes even.

Daniel Philips Freedman raced to third at 13:43.

“I really liked it. It was really fun,” said Liam. “I haven’t done much enduro, so I really liked it.

“I tried not to go too quick on the uphill because that didn’t count. Once I started the timed section I just pushed as hard as I could.”

The trails on Montana Mountain are epic, so says the International Mountain Bicycling Association.

In 2011, the association inducted the Mountain Hero Trail on Montana Mountain into its Epic Trails category.

Since 2005 the trails on the mountain have been maintained and expanded through the Single Track to Success Project, a Carcross/Tagish First Nation project aimed at creating and maintaining an extensive trail network on Montana Mountain.

“The highlight of the race for the organizers was to have three Carcross youths (Dominic Smith-Johns, Ryan Jules, and Jade McLeod) enter it,” said Koepke. “That was a big deal.

“They have all worked on the mountain. Two are current crew members and one was a crew member last year.”

“There were three of them racing today,” said Crowe. “They had a choice: getting paid to work an aid station or race. And those three decided to race.”

Saturday’s race was one of the very first enduro races in the territory and it won’t be the last.

This Saturday mountain bikers are invited to enter the Canyon Mountain Crusher in Whitehorse.

The enduro race will feature three stages on Grey Mountain followed by four stages at Mount McIntyre.

Because of the event’s logistics – shuttling riders between Grey and McIntyre – the event has a cap of 40 riders.

Bikers can register at Icycle Sport in Whitehorse or with an email to info@icyclesport.com.

The day after the Crusher it’ll be time to crown Yukon’s king and queen of mountain biking at the Yukon championships on Sunday.

The King of the Rocky Canyon – formerly King of the Canyon – will have a new location this year at Mount McIntyre. More information can be found at cmbcyukon.ca.

Contact Tom Patrick at tomp@yukon-news.com