If riding over 300 kilometres in a day sounds tough, imagine doing it on challenging trails with plenty of climbing.
A number of teams – and one solo rider – did just that at the 24 Hours of Light mountain bike festival over the weekend.
The 16th annual event, hosted by Contagious Mountain Bike Club at the Biathlon Yukon Range from noon Saturday to noon Sunday, had a record turnout of about 240 riders, including 100 out-of-towners.
Carcross couple Greg and Denise McHale had a simple strategy in the event: “Keep riding.”
The McHales, racing under the team name Tecnu, took the overall title, completing the 12.5-kilometre course 28 times, riding a total of 350 kilometres.
“It was a great course. It had everything – downhill, technical, great climbs,” said Greg.
The overall title came in dramatic fashion. Greg overtook a two-person Edmonton team, also on its 28th lap, and got to the finish first, a half-hour before the 24-hour cutoff.
“That makes it pretty exciting after 24 hours,” said Denise.
“It’s such a nice grassroots, fun event with all the kids events and family events,” she added.
The McHales, who are competitive adventure racers on U.S.’s Team Tecnu, used the event to prepare for a world champion qualifier next month in Wyomming.
The Edmonton team – Topher Coleman and Evan Wishloff – went on to win the two-person division with a total of 30 laps, including two “bonus” naked laps. (Yep, that’s a thing.)
The solo titles went to a pair of riders from Squamish, B.C., who oddly enough didn’t know each other would be there.
Squamish’s Kelly Servinski took first in solo men with 25 laps, stretching 312.5 kilometres. The 43-year-old is the first solo rider to break the 300-kilometre mark at the event in at least six years.
“It was awesome. It was a really hard course,” said Servinski, shortly after a nap in a patch of shade. “There was a lot of wildlife out there: a couple of bears, a couple of foxes. It’s pretty special to be in the Yukon – it’s our first time up here, so we wanted to incorporate the race into our trip up here.”
The Contagious event was Servinski’s second 24-hour race. He raced the 24-hour world championships six years ago in Australia, placing 33rd out of 59.
“I might have suffered more here,” said Servinski. “There’s nowhere to recover on the course; it’s a really demanding course. Great trails though.”
Squamish’s Gary Buxton completed 23 laps for second and Whitehorse’s Scott Kerby 16 laps for third.
Laurie Buxton, Gary’s wife, produced a sizeable victory in the solo women’s division. The 52-year-old completed 16 laps for an even 200 kilometres.
“It was wonderful. It was a really unique experience,” said Laurie. “The night riding with no lights and it not really getting dark, was really different. It was really fun to experience that.”
The Buxtons came to Whitehorse specifically for the event after stumbling upon it online.
“I think we decided to do it in January,” said Laurie. “We’d seen it online and went, ‘That looks like a good one to do.’ My husband has been doing 24-hour racing for quite a few years. It was just internet research on different places we can travel to.”
Whitehorse’s Meagan Wilson, last year’s solo winner and two-time Yukon mountain bike champ, came second with 10 laps. Fellow Whitehorse rider Jessica Read placed third with five laps.
Skagway, Alaska’s Team Sockeye took first in the four-person division. Paul Duyckinck, Ryan Rice, Matt Jilison and Max Kluver claimed the title with 34 laps, including seven bonus ones.
Whitehorse’s Swamp Donkeys also notched 34 laps with seven bare-skinned go-arounds to take first in the eight-person division.
“We didn’t really expect to win, we just came in with a fun attitude and after a few laps we were like, ‘Wow, we’re in second,’” said team captain Emmalee Agnew. “So we got more and more competitive and the naked laps started. One person on the team did it, so the next person – it was kind of contagious … In the end, that’s what won it for us.”
The Beaukinnons – a joining of the Beauregard and McKinnon clans – won the family division, completing 29 adult/youth laps and 52 mini laps.
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