If the first road race of VeloNorth Cycling Club’s season is any indication, competition will be fierce this year.
Sunday, The North Klondike Road Race – a 50-kilometre event starting and finishing at the Takhini Hot Springs cutoff – ended with one of cycling’s great spectacles: a mad sprint to the finish line.
Adding to the excitement, the sprint was not between two or three riders, but nine, all crossing the finish line within a second of each other.
Taking the win in the expert men class was Stephen Ball, coming in at one hour, 25 minutes and 27 seconds.
“It was a good pack and everyone was climbing well, stayed together and, once you hit the headwind, it’s hard for anyone to get away,” said Ball. “So everyone stuck together and it ended up with a bunch sprinting to the finish and I was lucky enough to take it out.
“Everyone jostles for the position that they want coming into the finish, and chooses who’s wheel they want to get on – where they think they have the best chance of winning. I actually had Jonah (Clark)‘s wheel because I knew he’d be doing pretty well at the finish.”
Clark, who took second on Sunday, won the first event of the season, the Carcross Cut-Off Time Trial on May 5, an event that Ball finished fourth in, a minute-and-a-half behind.
“Road racing is really my strong point,” said Ball. “I’m better at road racing than time trials.
“In a time trial you have to be motivated and have it in the head before go into it. I just lack motivation for those.
“I like to be around other riders.”
Ball, who won VeloNorth’s Jake’s Corner Road Race and ITT and came third in the men’s solo rider class of the Kluane Chilkat International Bike Relay last year, raced competitively in his native New Zealand in his 20s and then in a European circuit around the same time.
“I kind of became a couch potato for about 10 years, and then started back into it over the last couple years,” said Ball. “It’s nice to come out get some results. It’s good motivation; it gives you something to train for during the week.”
With a series of hills on the course and some open section susceptible to high winds, having such a large pack of riders finish together is a bit of a rarity at the event.
“That first hill usually splits things up a bit,” said race director Joel Macht. “The wind seems to be fairly calm today – either that, or no one really wanted to attack on the hills.”
However, that was not the case. Derrick Hynes, who finished eighth in the expert men class, was probably the most responsible for the pace the race took, consistently attempting to break from the pack, only to be “reeled back in,” as he put it.
“I just like to make it fun,” said Hynes. “So when we get to some of the climbs, if I feel good enough, I give it and see what happens. They’re all chuckling in the pack because I’m trying to get away from them. But once you get to the top of the hill, the pack will always reel you back in because you need insane speed, which I do not.
“Otherwise everyone stays together and it’s like a Sunday afternoon ride.
“When you’re drafting – tucking in behind someone – you’re working 25-30 per cent less,” continued Hynes. “That’s why we do it.
“They all killed me at the finish like I knew they would, so I just figured, what the heck?”
Troy Henry, who won almost every VeloNorth event he entered last year, ran into technical difficulties but still managed to pull off a third place finish.
“I don’t know yet. There was a problem with my chain ring – with it skipping,” said Henry. “When I really put power on it the chain comes off.”
In the expert women class, Kerrie Patterson took her second win in as many VeloNorth events, having also won the Carcross Cut-Off Time Trial to start the season.
1st Kerrie Patterson (1:36:28)
2nd Laura Salmon (1:38:22)
3rd Trena Irving (1:46:22)
1st Stephen Ball (1:25:27)
2nd Jonah Clark (1:25:27)
3rd Troy Henry (1:25:27)
4th Glenn Iceton (1:25:27)
5th Jerome McIntyre (1:25:27)
6th Aaron Foos (1:25:27)
7th Derrick Hynes (1:25:27)
8th Scott Kerby (1:25:27)
9th James Minifie (1:25:27)
10th Darren Holcombe (1:30:48)
11th Tony Delorenzo (1:31:28)
12th Jonothan Kerr DNF
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