Teammates turned rivals at the Yukon Road Championships on Saturday.
Whitehorse cyclists Aaron Foos and Stephen Ball, who rode on a two-person men’s team in the Kluane Chilkat bike relay, had gapped the rest of the expert men’s field and barreled down South Access Road neck and neck, at top speed.
Foos took Ball, and collected his first Yukon cycling title, by half a wheel at the finish.
“He probably would have had me but he had a mechanical problem in the last sprint,” said Foos. “It would have been close either way but he had a bad shift out 200-metres – he had a stutter – and that gave me a break.”
This year’s road championships, hosted by the U Kon Echelon cycling club for the first time, began at Jake’s Corner in Tagish, went along the Alaska Highway, down the South Access Road in Whitehorse, with the expert men completing a loop of Miles Canyon.
Foos logged a time of 2:07:49 on the 92-kilometre expert men’s course, just ahead of Ball, the 2011 Yukon road race champ.
“We were mostly all together heading up Miles Canyon Road and splinted on the first hill and there were three of us left at the top of the first hill,” said Ball. “At the top of the third hill there were two of us left there and Aaron got me in the sprint at the bottom of the hill here (on South Access Road).”
In Ball’s defence, Foos doesn’t have a three-week old at home keeping him up at night.
“I imagine he did sleep a lot better than I did last night,” said Ball. “I’m not using that as an excuse – not yet.”
Skagway, Alaska’s Spenser Morgan placed third in expert men at 2:08:14, just up from defending champ Elijah Buffalo of Whitehorse in fourth.
“It was a decent field, which is good,” said Foos. “Some of the local boys, who are really strong, are out of town this week, which is too bad. But we still had a good group. There were like five of us working together nicely.”
This year’s championship had a record 30 participants split between 13 divisions, racing from 20 to 92 kilometres.
Chris Rider posted the fasted time on the 80-kilometre course at 2:08:21 in the sport men category, while Marsh Lake’s Jody Cox was the fastest in sport women at 2:20:10.
Both under-13 divisions saw close finishes.
Ava Staley out-paced Annie Cable by a second in the U13 girls division, completing the 20-kilometre race in 50:32.
Mael Provost topped the 40-kilometre U13 males division with a time of 1:15:02, just three seconds up from Tristan Muir, who just recently turned 12 years old.
“It went well,” said Muir. “I think I sprinted a little early at the end and they ended up catching up with me.
“I think I should have waited. When I was in B.C. a couple weeks ago I did the same thing. After leading for most of the race, I ended up coming fifth.”
Muir participated in a weeklong road and mountain biking camp hosted by U Kon Echelon last week leading up to the championships.
In addition to club director Trena Irving, the camp was run by visiting coach Houshang Amiri, the head coach of the Pacific Cycling Centre – formerly the National Cycling Centre – in Victoria, B.C.
The popularity of cross-country skiing and speedskating in Whitehorse could be a foundation for top-notching cycling in the territory, he said.
“It’s nice to see this race here and the interest in cycling,” said Amiri. “There is a lot of potential here because cross-country skiing and speedskating is very transferable to cycling. They have everything here they need.”
Amiri has worked with Canada’s national cycling team for a decade and was Canada’s head cycling coach at the 2008 Olympics. He has also worked with Watson Lake’s Zach Bell, who is currently in Scotland for the 2014 Commonwealth Games.
“It’s really promising because what I see is not just kids, it’s parents – they’re all into it,” said Amiri. “You need that because without them, nothing is going to go.
“As I said, cross-country skiing is big and those athletes can cross over between the two sports. We had Tara Whitten, two-time world champion (and) Olympic medalist. In 2006 she came from cross-country skiing and within two years she won the world championship.”
Contact Tom Patrick at email@example.com
U6 males (20km)
1st Johna Staley/Peter Staley – 0:45 (tandem)
U13 males (20km)
1st Taiga Daneau-Troy – 50:30
U13 males (40km)
1st Mael Provost – 1:15:02
2nd Tristan Muir – 1:15:05
3rd Victor Thibeault – 1:15:10
4th Cauis Taggart – 1:23:00
5th Lucas Taggart – DNF
U13 Girls (20km)
1st Ava Staley – 50:32
2nd Annie Cable – 50:33
Para athlete (20km)
1st Cayla Jackson – 27:00
U17 male (80km)
1st Hudson Lucier – 2:11:24
U19 female (40km)
1st Sara Forsyth – 1:23:00
U19 male (80km)
1st Dave Jackson – 2:38:35
U23 male (92km)
1st Shea Hoffman – 2:21:23
Sport men (80km)
1st Chris Rider – 2:08:21
2nd Houshang Amari – 2:20:10
3rd Andy Muir – 2:21:55
4th Malcolm Taggart – 2:28:48
Sport men (92km)
1st Geoff Harries – 2:21:36
2nd Jon Heaton – 2:26:29
Sport women (80km)
1st Jody Cox – 2:20:10
2nd Simi Morrison – 2:33:30
3rd Trena Irving – 2:37:69
Expert men (92km)
1st Aaron Foos – 2:07:49
2nd Stephen Ball – 2:07:50
3rd Spenser Morgan – 2:08:14
4th Elijah Buffalo – n/a
5h Bill Waugh – 2:09:03
6th Marc Lapointe – 2:09:04