Team Yukon cyclist breaks top 20 in Sherbrooke

In a road race, if every other cyclist is behind you, you know you’re doing well. In a time trial, when cyclists take off individually and try to set the fastest time on a course, it can be hard to tell.

SHERBROOKE, Que.

In a road race, if every other cyclist is behind you, you know you’re doing well.

In a time trial, when cyclists take off individually and try to set the fastest time on a course, it can be hard to tell.

If you’re passing riders, that’s a good sign. If you’re being passed, that’s a bad sign.

Sometimes all you can do is just keep pedaling.

“When you’re out there, you just have to keep pushing and know that every other racer out there is feeling the same,” said Yukon’s Melanie Tait. “When you turn around (at the halfway point) and there’s a headwind, you dig deep.”

Tait’s deep-digging paid off at the Canada Summer Games on Monday. The 21-year-old placed 18th out of 33 cyclists in the time trial to start the Games.

She was in time trial limbo during the race, neither passing anyone or being passed.

“I’m really happy with 18th. Top-20 is good for me, especially in a time trial,” said Tait. “It all came together well and I can tell the training has paid off. I wasn’t too nervous out there, I felt like I knew what I was doing. It was nice to have a bit of confidence and go out and represent the Yukon and see the fans that have come.”

The Whitehorse cyclist finished the 16-kilometre course in 24 minutes and 43.10 seconds, just one minute from cracking the top-10.

Tait hasn’t been competing long, but she’s been training hard. Tait only started cycling competitively last summer and had an early success, winning the sport women category in the Tour of Juneau.

This summer she’s been training with Alberta’s Bicisport Calgary Cycling Club out of Calgary and has raced in B.C., Alberta and Saskatchewan this season.

“I actually did a lot of training on my own,” said Tait.

She won a road race in the Devon Grand Prix in Devon, Alta., in June for her first win of the season and then tied for first in the open women’s division of the 173-kilometre Southern Lakes Bike Loppet in the Yukon last month.

“I’m thrilled with Melanie’s results,” said Yukon head coach Trena Irving. “All of her hard work in Calgary has been paying off. It was a good decision for her to stay down there and race. That’s what you need is the experience racing.

“I told her this is just the beginning, that she still has many years yet to get up to a national level.”

Also racing on Monday was teammate Shea Hoffman who placed 42nd out of 43 riders, beating a cyclist from Saskatchewan. He finished the 20-kilometre men’s course in 32:19.77.

“On the way out I was fairly fast … I was getting up to 60 (km/h),” said Hoffman. “But then I was going 40 or 30 on the way back.”

The 18-year-old was one of the youngest cyclists competing at the 23-and-under competition this week. He will be eligible to compete at the 2017 Canada Games in Winnipeg.

“We’re looking for experience here, to see what it’s all about, keep him training for another four years,” said Irving. “He comes back in four years, he won’t be placing down towards the bottom. That’s an age thing. A lot of these riders have 10 years under their belt, of riding, training hard with other people at their speed.”

Sherbrooke represent’s Hoffman’s sixth major Games. He has competed at three Arctic Winter Games and one Canada Winter Games in speed skating. He also competed at the 2011 Western Canada Summer Games in cycling.

The Canada Games is a real family affair for Tait. She is one of five Taits on Team Yukon in Sherbrooke.

Her father Russ was the head coach for the men’s volleyball team, which also had her sister Janna as assistant coach and brother Lowell as co-captain. Her other sister, Roslyn ,was assistant coach for the women’s volleyball team.

Yukon’s two-person cycling team will be back in action for the road race on Wednesday and a criterium on Saturday before the closing ceremonies.

Both cyclists are members of the U Kon Echelon developmental club founded last year by Irving.

Yukon’s first-ever medal at the Canada Summer Games came in cycling when Sean Sheardown won a silver at the 1989 Games in Saskatoon.

Contact Tom Patrick at

tomp@yukon-news.com

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