New Team Yukon cyclist shows his potential

The cycling career of Whitehorse's Dave Gonda has been pushed into high gear.

The cycling career of Whitehorse’s Dave Gonda has been pushed into high gear.

In just his first year of cycling competitively, the 21-year-old not only won VeloNorth Cycling Club’s Range Road Race on Sunday, but last week Gonda was asked to cycle for Team Yukon at the Canada Summer Games next month in PEI.

“I was pretty surprised and pretty happy that they asked me,” said Gonda. “This is my first time (going to the Games) so it’s going to be exciting being part of Team Yukon and enjoying the whole experience.”

Gonda won the Range Road Race by just a few spokes, beating second-place Joel Macht by less than a second. In fact, the top four finishers crossed the finish line less than a minute apart.

“Because there were only six of us, I knew we’d stick together until the end,” said Gonda.

“I happened to be in a good spot on that last hill. I thought they were going to catch me there.”

Approaching the final hill, Gonda was in at the back of the pack, but was able to out-crank the leaders on the considerable incline, to take first.

“That’s not a bad spot to be in because they’re pulling you along on the downhill,” said Gonda. “If you’re in the front, you’re doing more of the work on the downhill. So if you’re in the back, it’s really the best spot to be.”

Gonda was asked to join Team Yukon after team member Nathaniel Rodden decided to drop out because of work obligations.

“I think he’s just working too many hours—he has a great summer job,” said Team Yukon cycling coach Grant Owen, of Rodden. “In order to race at the Games you have to be competitive and he just realized he has to make a choice—his job was great and the money was good so that was his choice.”

The win was a first for Gonda. His previous high-water mark came on July 4, finishing second in VeloNorth’s Carcross Cut-off Time Trial. However, results aside, Gonda caught the attention of Team Yukon through word-of-mouth.

“I didn’t know much about him at all,” said Owen. “Some of the other athletes know him—they probably went to school with him—and said, ‘There’s this guy that’s pretty fast, rides lots and is interested in coming to the Games.’

“(The choice) was pretty simple, really.”

Joining Gonda on the trip to PEI are teammates Heather Enders, Kelsey Kabanak, Kaitlyn MacDonald, Troy Henry, Jesse Reams, and Ryan Burlingame, who finished third on Sunday.

Currently Henry and Reams are competing in BC’s Superweek. Reams, racing on Louis Garneau’s professional team, Garneau Evolution, took second in the prologue of the Tour de Delta, beating Yukon’s cycling Olympian Zach Bell. In the finals, Reams finished 53rd and Henry took 80th, but Bell broke into the top-10 with seventh.

The Range Road Race consisted of five, 8.5-kilometre laps starting from the bus turnaround on Range Road to Mountain View Drive, into Porter Creek, and back onto Range Road. Only two women riders came out for the race, but both ended up scratching due to illness and flat tires.

Next weekend, while America’s Lance Armstrong will be pushing for his eighth Tour de France title, local cyclists will be vying for top spots in the 2009 Tour de Whitehorse. The event will begin Friday with a 10-kilometre race around the Miles Canyon Loop, also known as the Three Pillars of Doom.

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