Yukon’s Hans Gatt is best known as a champion dogsled musher, but he’s no slouch on a dirt bike.
Trading dog power for horsepower, Gatt won the expert division at the Copper Haul Hare Scramble off Copper Haul Road on Sunday.
It was the first race of the season hosted by the Yukon Cross Country Motorcycle Association (YCCMA), which was formed last year.
Gatt completed 15 laps of the five-kilometre A Loop in the allotted one hour and 45 minutes to win the expert division in the cross-country motorcycle race.
The A Loop was no ride through the park; many riders were ready to collapse from exhaustion after the race.
“It’s very challenging,” said Gatt. “It’s not the speed that is challenging, it’s the slow sections that are so technical. A lot of people get stuck in them.”
Expert and intermediate division racers had to ride over boulders, over tires, through a trench of chopped firewood, up and down steep inclines, with lots of winding single-track through the woods.
“It’s called enduro-cross, it’s a fairly new type of racing,” said Gatt of the obstacle section. “It’s incredibly popular down in the States – actually, around the world.”
Gatt won with a couple laps to spare, outpacing second place’s Dale Panchyshyn and third’s Jason Adams.
The four-time Yukon Quest dogsled race champion raced at the national level in motocross in his native Austria decades ago but just recently got back into dirt bike racing.
“I was riding 40 years ago and then I quit for a long, long time, and then (association president) Chris Locke and some of the guys here got me back into it about three years ago,” said Gatt. “So now I’m picking up what I knew 40 years ago.”
His skill on the bike seems to have rubbed off on partner Susie Rogan, who won the women’s division on Sunday. Having won both of the YCCMA hare scrambles last year, she’s now three-for-three.
Even without the boulders, tire-obstacles and firewood pit, the four-kilometre women’s-novice-and-junior course was tough, said Rogan.
“It was a slow, technical race,” said Rogan. “The other track (last year) you could really get going fast. This was first and second gear the whole way – for me anyway.
“The whole race was tight turns… I kept thinking, ‘It’s got to be over.’ The ones at the other track seemed to go quick, but this went slow because you were working harder on this one.”
Sunday’s races could mark the first of many off the Copper Haul Road. The association is in discussions with the City of Whitehorse about making the area a permanent location for races and riding.
“We’re in discussions, nothing is really been pounded out into anything solid yet,” said Locke. “There is some discussion of turning it into a skills park with the city rec department. They’re actually the ones who suggested it.”
“We didn’t have to (leave our previous location), but we chose to because it was an opportunity to have a bigger parking lot and potentially a way better venue.”
The association is also going high-tech. On Sunday the group premiered its new electronic scoring timer acquired with money from the Canadian Development Fund.
“When we have it set up for this next race, there will be an electronic heads-up display on which the rider will see where he is (in the standings),” said Locke. “People will be able to watch it on their iPhones and their iPads and so on, in live timing on the Internet.”
The YCCMA will be hosting the Yukon Hare Scramble Championships on September 30 at the same location. Without the death defying jumps in motocross, cross country racing is becoming popular, said Locke.
“I’ve been here for most of my life and I would say that last year’s fall race was the largest motorcycle race held in the Yukon for 20 years, as far as turn out goes,” said Locke. “This hare scramble stuff is a whole new different ball game. It’s not like the motocross – there’s not as much action and stuff. But it’s a lot easier for the older generation to get out there and participate and still go to work on Monday.
“That’s a big factor: it’s very family friendly. The kids are out there, the moms are out there, the dads – everybody is out there participating. And that’s what it’s all about.”
1st Sawyer Adams (KTM)
2nd Seth Adams (Yamaha)
3rd Cody Adams (Yamaha)
1st Saul Gale (Yamaha)
2nd Sawyer Adams (KTM)
3rd Cole Beaman (Yamaha)
1st Brody Ryckman (Kawasaki)
2nd Ethan Davy (Yamaha)
1st Sam Schirmer (Husqvarna)
2nd Steve Pearson (KTM)
3rd Stephan Gladwin (Honda)
1st Susie Rogan (Yamaha)
2nd Christy Willett (Yamaha)
3rd Antje Beaman (Yamaha)
1st Mike Beaman (Yamaha)
2nd Travis Adams (Yamaha)
3rd Neil Ryckman (Yamaha)
1st Hans Gatt (KTM)
2nd Dale Panchyshyn (KTM)
3rd Jason Adams (Yamaha)
Contact Tom Patrick at