Most years only the very fastest cyclists and teams are concerned with the overall win – the first overall to the finish line – in the Kluane Chilkat International Bike Relay.
Participants instead tend to be more interested in how they place in their division.
Yet, with a sprint to the finish between the first two cyclists, posting the fastest times the race has seen in over a decade, the Fort Seward fairgrounds were abuzz with talk of the exciting finish at the 21st annual event on Saturday.
“It was a very fair sprint and the better guy won it,” said Cloverdale, B.C.‘s Brett Boniface. “What a phenomenal rider he is.”
Whitehorse’s David Gonda outpaced Boniface by a wheel-length to give his two-person men’s team the overall title in the 238-kilometre race from Haines Junction, Yukon, to Haines, Alaska.
Gonda, who was partnered with Whitehorse’s Jonah Clark, finished in 5:57:21.
RELATED:Read full results here.
With a time of 5:57:22, Boniface won the solo men’s division for the second straight year.
“Brett was riding solo at the front of the race and I was able to catch him and we raced together for the last 90 or 70 kilometres,” said Gonda. “He was riding solo, so he had an amazing ride to be riding that strong after 200 kilometres.”
Both finishing times represent the fastest the race has seen since 2002 when a four-person men’s team from Whitehorse posted the course record of 5:55:55.
Gonda and Clark’s time is also the fastest two-person time in the race’s record books, which go back to 1999.
Boniface’s time is the solo record, far surpassing all other times since the division was introduced in 2001.
“I have to give it to David Gonda, who had one very fast second-half of the race,” said Boniface. “It was really close. He bridged an amazing gap there on top of the glacier – came across a three-minute gap – and when he came I was actually quite relieved to see him because it’s nice to have someone there.”
Clark was fourth to the halfway mark out of two-person riders. Gonda then made up the difference, completing the second half of the course in 3:02:09 with a blistering average speed 41.73 kilometres an hour.
Boniface finished the 238-kilometre distance with an average speed of 40.01 kilometres an hour.
Clark is no stranger to Haines-to-Haines wins. He won the two-person men’s division and the overall title last year with Whitehorse’s James Minifie, posting a time of 7:25:38. Clark also won the solo men’s division in 2005 and 2007.
Saturday was Gonda’s first time on a winning team.
“I’d like to do it solo one year when I have proper training,” said Gonda. “Most importantly, it’s just fun to come out. The weather makes the weekend, for sure.”
Conditions were vastly superior than in 2012. There was sun and warm temperatures instead of last year’s rain, snow and near-freezing temperatures.
In fact, a few grumbles could be heard about it being a little too hot. But no one dared complain about the almost ubiquitous tailwinds during the race.
About 90 minutes were shaved off times from last year across the board in all 11 divisions.
Boniface, who has raced professionally on three continents, won the division last year with a time of 7:40:37, 1:43:15 slower than this year.
“Last year were such epic conditions with the cold and the wet – you experienced everything,” said Boniface. “It couldn’t get any worse.
“Instead of six pairs of gloves this year, we brought seven and it managed to be 25 degrees with sunshine. It was a completely different race.”
Whitehorse’s Preston Blackie raced to second in the solo men’s division with a time of 6:14:12.
“I’m really happy (with second),” said Blackie. “I went for a ride with Brett – the guy who won – two nights ago. It was the first time I ever met him.
“We have some mutual friends and know about the guy and I know he rides quite a bit more than me.
“I didn’t even know he was here until the other night and I realized pretty quick he’s quite a bit stronger than me on the bike.”
Blackie, who finished with an average speed of 38.21 kilometres an hour, hadn’t entered the Kluane Chilkat in about 15 years. The former pro mountain biker has been on winning two-, four- and eight-person teams in the past.
“Last time I did this they didn’t offer the solo category, they just had the two-, four- and the eight-(person divisions),” said Blackie. “I’ve done all of those and I always wanted to do the solo.
“I started training last year and made this my goal.”
Whitehorse’s Elijah Buffalo placed third in solo men’s with a time of 6:14:28.
Haines cyclist posts solo female record
Both solo records fell during Saturday’s Kluane Chilkat race.
Haines, Alaska’s Jennifer Walsh set a new women’s solo record of 6:58:11, beating the 2002 record of 7:28:25 set by Anchorage’s Janice Tower.
“(It’s) shocking. I don’t know if I believe it yet,” said Walsh of her win. “I feel great. I’ve got to tell you, winter in Haines is long. I bought (stationary) rollers. I trained a lot. But no, the darkness never got to me and neither did the weather.”
It was just the 34-year-old’s second time in the race, doing only Leg 1 last year. That means she went from doing 19 kilometres in 2012 to 238 on Saturday.
Walsh, who is a firefighter in Haines, credits her support crew and “tons” of tailwinds.
“It was amazing, it was really fun. Great tailwind … I had amazing support.”
Whitehorse’s Meagan Wilson cruised over the finish line at 7:44:57 to place second.
Wilson, who is Yukon’s current female mountain bike champ, was “just hoping to finish.”
“I did it solo once before and there was a huge headwind and it wasn’t fun,” said Wilson. “After that I said I’d never ride a bike again … Today was much better.
“It was just a nice day of riding, not a tortuous day like last time.”
Whitehorse’s Trena Irving, the 2011 solo women’s champ, placed third with a time of 8:00:24.
Whitehorse riders claim four-person divisions
Whitehorse teams won six of the race’s 11 divisions, and three of those were in four-person divisions. Two of those were repeat wins.
The winners of the four-person men’s team might be the “Retired Calves,” but they have plenty of kick left in them.
The Whitehorse team of Sam Lindsey, David Greer, Ray Sabo and Knute Johnsgaard completed the race in 6:03:04 to win the division and place third overall in the race.
“I was pretty surprised by how fast everyone was moving,” said Greer, who rode the third and fourth legs. “We had a decent tailwind in a lot of spots and barely any headwinds at all.”
Three of the team’s members were on the winning team last years, completing the race in 7:35:15, more than 90 minutes slower.
The team consisted of retired competitive cross-country skiers – hence the team name – with the exception of Johnsgaard.
“This year we didn’t ride a ton preparing for this; for most of us this was the longest we’ve ridden all year,” said Greer. “If we’re all here next year we might train a little more and try to win the overall. It would be fun to do again.”
Whitehorse’s Team Horton GoNuts placed second at 6:14:01 and Whitehorse’s Fart Box Smashers claimed third at 6:20:34.
Cross-country skiers also filled the ranks of the top four-person women’s team.
Whitehorse’s Cougar Attack!, featuring Aisha Montgomery, Leslie Doran, Deb Higgins and Jay Cherian, pedaled to first with a time of 7:02:10.
“We ski together all winter long, we run together, we always put a team together for the road relay as well,” said Montgomery, referring to the Trail of ‘98 running relay race from Skagway, Alaska, to Whitehorse.
The team won the division last year as well with a time of 9:04:13, but with Tammy Reis instead of Cherian. They were also on the winning 10-member team in the Trail of ‘98 last year.
“It’s always about fun,” said Montgomery. “We just get out there, start and go as hard as we can – for fun!
“This year Leslie was really strong and it was just so nice to watch her finish.”
Whitehorse teams occupied the top 11 spots in the division.
The Spandex Wearing Granola Munchers will surely be reading this.
The four-person mixed winning team was inspired by letters published in the Yukon News when deciding a team name.
The name is a “bit of an homage to some nasty anti-cycling letters that were written to the News last year,” said member Ian Parker.
Spandex and granola seemed to work for the Whitehorse team, winning the division with a time of 6:15:47.
Parker did the first four legs before Bill Slater completed five and six and Liz Parker seven and eight.
Ian, who placed second in the solo men’s division in 2011, has now raced in 11 Kluane Chilkat races.
“In 11 years of doing it, that was only the second time I’ve seen the weather like that,” said Ian. “It was amazing.”
Whitehorse’s Ride My Leg placed third behind a team from Fairbanks.
Past solo champs team-up for two-person title
One of the safest bets on the day was in the two-person mixed division.
Whitehorse’s Stephen Ball and Kerrie Paterson, both of whom are past solo division winners, won the division with a time of 6:15:36.
It was the first time the two, who are partners in regular life outside of cycling, formed the Paterball team.
“It was a good day, the weather was fantastic,” said Paterson. “I was with a couple people for the first leg-and-a-half and then I lost my chain, so then I lost people. But then I caught back up to one of them. Then a group caught up with us, so it was good.
“The last leg was really fast. There were a couple riders going really hard, so that helped.”
Ball, who was a national team rider in his native New Zealand, won the solo men’s division in 2010 and 2011 and finished second behind Boniface last year.
Paterson captured the solo women’s division in 2008 and 2009. She also won the two-person women’s division in 2010 and 2011 with last year’s solo women’s winner, Nadele Flynn.
With so much attention given to the winning two-person men’s team of David Gonda and Jonah Clark, who won the overall, some might not have noticed all three podium spots were occupied by Whitehorse teams.
Aaron Foos and Tim Sellars came in at 6:15:27 for second while Karl Blattmann and Simon Lapointe snagged third with a time of 6:28:13.
The only division in the race without a Whitehorse team in the top-two was the two-person women’s.
Whitehorse’s Jennifer Platz and Annie Young didn’t keep up with a pair of Juneau teams, but still claimed third out of 11 teams at 8:09:15.
Whitehorse’s “No Brakes” tops eight-person races
Whitehorse might have been held to only one top-spot out of the three eight-person divisions, but the one winning team was faster than the other 94.
Whitehorse’s No Brakes beat 68 teams in the mixed eight-person division with a time of 7:23:56, outpacing the all-male and all-female teams as well.
“It feels good. We’re just so thankful for the weather,” said captain Kathleen Jarvis. “We went into it not being competitive, but we wanted to have fun and it was funner winning.
“We all biked really strong and we’re proud of everyone.”
On board for the win were Brent Ristau and Harrison Kwok – the two returners from last year’s winning team – and Josh Wiebe, Charles Turanich-Noyen, Marcel Vander Wier, JP Austring and anchor Amy Vander Wier.
“We’re all friends from church,” said Jarvis, who rode Leg 2. “I just moved here a year ago, so this is my first year being able to do the race. Loving cycling, I wanted to be part of a team, so we organized ourselves.”
Skagway’s Totally Tubular won the eight-person women’s division at 7:47:18 and Douglas, Alaska’s Vitruvian Velo-ciraptors won the eight-person men’s division at 7:36:22.
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