Gonda, van der Meer take mountain bike crowns

Whitehorse’s David Gonda and Sierra van der Meer are trail-riding royalty with wins at the King of the Canyon — Yukon’s mountain bike championships — on Saturday in the Grey Mountain area.

Long live the king. And the new queen, too.

Whitehorse’s David Gonda and Sierra van der Meer are trail-riding royalty with wins at the King of the Canyon — Yukon’s mountain bike championships — on Saturday in the Grey Mountain area.

“It’s just nice to be able to participate and that the club has lots of volunteers that will put these events on,” said Gonda. “It’s good to see a pretty good turnout today and riders from Outside — a guy from Ontario, too — was good to see.”

Gonda’s win was his fifth at the championship, after taking the crown in 2009, 2010, 2013 and last year.

The 28-year-old kept his throne by completing the 47-kilometre long course in two hours, 35 minutes and 14 seconds.

Colin Abbott took second at 2:40:23 and Paul Cooney third at 2:50:50.

“On the first section of the course called Downtown Boogaloo it was very slippery and rooty and there was a bridge that was very slippery and a few people crashed there by the sounds of it,” said Gonda. “Everything dried out by the end of the course and everything was in great shape.”

Van der Meer, 34, captured her first queen’s crown with a time of 3:57:52. She was the only female racer on the long course, so all she had to do was finish, which not everyone did. Two riders scratched on the long course and one on the short.

“(It was a) win by attrition,” said van der Meer. “The trails don’t get better than they were today, with the rain and then the sunshine.

“I don’t get too many opportunities to be gone this many hours — I have a new baby — so it was nice to be out in the sunshine for a nice long ride to cap off the season.”

Van der Meer won the short-course princess title in 2010 and the women’s title at the Singlespeed World Championships in 2014.

She is also the president of the hosting Contagious Mountain Bike Club.

“As CMBC president I’m not always popular with everyone who may not enjoy mountain biking as much as I do,” said van der Meer. “I remember in the Yukon News someone called me the ‘self-appointed queen of mountain biking’ in a comment. Now I can say I earned it … to whoever the curmudgeon was.”

Of course, the Yukon mountain biking royal court wouldn’t be complete without a prince and princess — winners of the short course.

Whitehorse’s Chrissy McConnell, racing the event for her first time, took first for females on the 26-kilometre course for the princess crown.

“I loved it. There was good competition. There was four of us all kind of riding together, we’d see each other a lot of the time,” said McConnell. “Unfortunately, I took a wrong turn. So I was in front for quite a while but I took a wrong turn — I kept going up Payback — and by the time I realized I had to turn around and come back down, three of the women had gone in front of me, so I had to catch them.”

McConnell, 40, came back to finish with a time of 2:06:13, just 20 seconds ahead of second place’s Carrie Burbidge. Isabelle Beauregard finished in 2:07:58 for third.

McConnell was also the top female on the short course at the CarCranked Enduro event two weeks ago.

“I’ve been mountain biking for quite a few years and I train quite a bit,” she said. “I was surprised that I won, but, I mean, it’s not like my first time mountain biking.”

Fabien Florentin took back the title of prince. The 41-year-old, who won the crown in 2014, was tops on the short course at 1:52:00.

Jeff Lister (1:53:40) placed second and Brad Heron (2:00:10) third.

“It was an awesome course, very well marked, perfect weather, and fall colours all around us — it was just a beautiful ride,” said Florentin.

“It’s always good (to win), but the very fast guys are doing the long course. That’s the only reason why I’m lucky enough to win.”

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