For the second year in a row a course record was set at the Southern Lakes Bike Loppet. And for the second year in a row, Whitehorse’s Stephen Ball had something to do with it.
After setting a course record as a solo rider last year, Ball teamed up with Whitehorse’s Ian Parker to set a new course record at the sixth annual event on Saturday.
Ball and Parker completed the 173-kilometre race in four hours and 42 minutes.
Both pointed to good conditions on the course that started and ended at the Marsh Lake Community Centre.
“It was a good ride out there, good conditions, no really strong headwinds,” said Ball. “For the part I did, anyway.”
“A good stretch of pavement and tailwinds,” said Parker. “I was keeping up with (solo winner) Dave Gonda, which is always a bonus. We were pushing 45, 50 kilometres an hour through there ... A north wind is pretty rare.”
Ball finished last year’s race to set a record of 4:54. Parker won the race as a solo rider in the inaugural event in 2008.
“You guys were freakin’ motoring out there,” said Ball to Parker and Gonda. “It’s a nice way to finish, rather than slogging it into a headwind.
“We only did half because David is half our age. We’re old, so we get away with doing half.”
While friends, Ball and Parker have also been rivals in plenty of races. The two were neck-and-neck as solo riders in the 2011 Kluane Chilkat International Bike Relay with Ball taking first, 17 seconds ahead of Parker in second.
“It’s my first time being a teammate with Stephen, too,” said Parker. “I’ve raced against him enough to know it’s more fun being on his team than riding against him.”
The solo women’s division has seen ties before, but never for first place up to Saturday.
Whitehorse’s Melanie Tait and Haines, Alaska’s Jenn Walsh shared first with a time of 5:26, about 31 minutes from Tamara Goeppel’s 2011 record of 4:55.
It was Tait’s longest race to date.
“It was great riding together. We stuck with the men as long as we could - I think it was maybe 60K,” said Tait. “Then we stuck together for the rest of the race, took turns pulling, and it was great to have a strong rider to push me like that.
“We finished together and tied it and it’s a really good accomplishment for me because the races I’ve been doing have been ... a 50-, 70-kilometre road race, a 40K criterium and a 10- to 20-kilometre time trial. This was a 173 kilometres all at once, so it’s probably the longest I’ve sat on a bike.”
Last year’s solo women winner, Kerrie Paterson, scratched from the race with a broken derailleur.
Walsh won the solo women’s category of the 238-kilometre Kluane Chilkat in June, setting a new division record in the process.
“I was at the Kluane (Chilkat) and people told me about this race,” said Walsh. “I feel pretty good, it was so fun and I made a new friend. It was really nice to have somebody to ride with the whole time. In the Kluane, there were some really large sections that I rode by myself.”
Tait, 21, is one of two cyclists set to race for Team Yukon at the Canada Summer Games in Sherbrooke, Que., between August 12 and 17. The other is Shea Hoffman, who placed fourth in the solo men division on Saturday.
Tait won a road race in the Devon Grand Prix in Devon, Alta., last month for her first win of the season.
“I am feeling ready,” said Tait. “You always know you can train more, but I’m happy with how the year went with training and I’m really looking forward to going. It’s going to be an awesome experience.”
Solo men’s winner David Gonda was second overall across the finish line with a time of 4:44. He likes that the loppet’s start/finish line changes to a different location along the course each year. Saturday’s edition of the race was the first since 2008 in which Marsh Lake was the starting and finishing point.
“I like this event. It’s nice that it switches spots every year,” said Gonda. “It was just a good day. The tailwind on the last stretch from the Carcross cutoff was pretty amazing.”
Gonda also won the five-person division with two others in 2009 before heading off to the Canada Games in P.E.I.
He rode with Ball and Parker for most of the race until Parker dropped him on the final stage.
“Steve was pretty aggressive in the first half of the race and after he switched off with Ian Parker and I worked together for the majority of the second half,” said Gonda. “I kind of had just one speed in the final stretch - the last 20 kilometres - where I couldn’t really accelerate at all and he was able to get a gap and take the win.”
A total of 29 teams and solo riders took part in the race through Tagish, to Carcross, to Mount Lorne, to Golden Horn and back to Marsh Lake.
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