The women’s expert field was small but the results were big – good enough for the record book.
Whitehorse’s Tamara Goeppel had only one other rider to compete against at VeloNorth Cycling Club’s Skagway Hill Climb in Alaska on Sunday, but it was enough to push her to set a new course record.
Geoppel finished the 19-kilometre time trial race from Skagway to the White Pass Summit, climbing roughly 1,000-metres in altitude, in one hour, one minute and five seconds. The previous expert women’s record was set by Juneau’s Janice Sheufelt, breaking her own record last May, reaching the summit in 1:02:35.
“Pedal like hell – that’s what the strategy was,” said Goeppel. “Keep your head down and keep those pedals moving.”
Geoppel had cycled the route before, but in the Fulda Challenge on a mountain bike during the winter. She also ran the course in the Klondike Road Relay.
“If you did your homework, then you can use strategy,” said Goeppel. “Today it was just: pedal like mad.”
Her first VeloNorth event of the season, Goepple, who was on the winning team the Intermontane Challenge in BC last year in the mixed category and won the Whitehorse Triathlon in 2000, did not have records on her mind when she set out.
“Everything was fine except one big hill,” said Goeppel. “When we were driving in we weren’t talking about records or times or anything, it was just to enjoy the day and have a really awesome workout – and enjoy the biking company.”
Finishing second in the expert women class was Kelsey Kabanak, racing in her first event since returning from university, coming in with a time of 1:32:00.
On the expert men’s side, Jamie Bissell, making his VeloNorth premier, took top honours, breaking the one-hour mark with a time of 59:10.
“The biggest thing I’ve ever learned for cycling, in general, is race like you’re chasing and never like you’re being chased,” said Bissell. “You see someone in front of you and you think, ‘OK, I’m going to go get him.’
“It gives me a goal that is tangible, instead of just thinking how much my legs hurt.”
Bissell, who moved to Skagway a month ago and is originally from California, was a mountain biker most of his life, only getting into road racing while living in New Zealand and Tasmania, Australia over the last three years.
“It’s just been recently, in Tasmania, that I really got into road cycling this year,” said Bissell. “The (cycling) shop I worked at was road cycling based and I got up every morning and joined the bunch and decided to embrace this form of cycling – and I’ve really enjoyed it.
“I’m trying to get out and do as many events as I can.
“This is the commute – the White Pass commute,” he added. “So I’m pretty familiar with the road.”
Taking second – a position he is familiar with in this event – was Whitehorse’s Jerome McIntyre, coming in just 18 seconds behind Bissell.
“I’ve done this race a few times and I’ve finished second at least three times,” said McIntyre. “But that’s the closest I’ve come to winning it.”
In a time trial (individual start) format, McIntyre started the race a minute behind Bissell and therefore knew he had to finish within a minute of him to beat him. However, McIntyre let too much ground build between them late in the race, after taking and then losing the lead.
“I’ve never raced with (Bissell) before, so I don’t know what his strengths are, and I passed him just before customs. So I thought, ‘OK, he’s out of it,’” said McIntyre. “Then halfway up the steepest section he put in this big acceleration and went by me.
“I had him within a minute in this section – in the home stretch – but he just found another gear right at the end.”
Last year, McIntyre suffered a broken spoke a quarter kilometre from the finish line, forcing him withdraw from the race with the end just out of sight.
Taking third in the expert men division was VeloNorth president Scott Kerby with a time of 59:52.
Although it does not appear in the VeloNorth’s season schedule, organizers have not ruled out holding a second Skagway Hill Climb for the end of the summer like it did last year despite a low turnout on Sunday.
“It’s a small community, so we can check with everyone and if there’s enough people who want to come down, we can do it,” said race chief John Barryman. “It’s a tough week (for participation) because there’s two other races coming up this week.”
On Wednesday VeloNorth will host its second Carcross Cut-off Time Trial and many of VeloNorth’s cyclists will also be participating in next Sunday’s Whitehorse Triathlon.
Whitehorse’s Troy Henry, who was absent from Sunday’s race, set the men’s course record at the first of two Skagway Hill Climbs last season, completing the course in 51:39.
1st Jamie Bissell – 59:10
2nd Jerome McIntyre – 59:28
3rd Scott Kerby – 59:52
4th Glenn Iceton – 1:03:47
5th Derrick Hynes – 1:04:31
1st Tamara Goeppel – 1:01:05
2nd Kelsey Kabanak – 1:32:00
1st Shannon Meekins – 1:36:46
Contact Tom Patrick at firstname.lastname@example.org