Teams get competitive, naked at Yukon mountain bike festival

Cyclists push each other to the limit at 24 Hours of Light Mountain Bike Festival

A lot can happen in a 24-hour bike race.

There are usually flat tires and broken chains, and sometimes hallucinations induced by exhaustion.

Also, in that span of time, teams can transform from recreational to dog-eat-dog competitive.

That was the story of at least a couple of teams at the 24 Hours of Light Mountain Bike Festival, held from noon to noon June 24-25 at the Biathlon Yukon Range.

Richard Gear and the Pretty Women won the overall title with 27 laps of the 13-kilometre course. But the Whitehorse team didn’t enter to win, said member Derek Bryant.

“(Team captain Anna Davies) kind of pitched it as an opportunity to drink a lot of beer and maybe do a couple laps,” said Bryant. “Then we found out we were doing pretty good and all of a sudden we got super competitive. She (Davies) actively cheered against us because she didn’t want it to become competitive.

“But by morning she completely turned around, woke us up and told us we had to win.”

The Richard Gear crew, which included Liz Stanford, Willie Bell, Thaidra Sloan and B.C.’s Geoffrey Sanz and Ryan Tooby, raced in the eight-person division at the 17th annual event hosted by Contagious Mountain Bike Club. A total of 221 mountain bikers took part in the event.

“We drank a bunch of caffeine at midnight — put some Bailey’s in it to calm the nerves,” said Bryant.

“It was our fearless leader’s reverse psychology tactic that really pushed us to take it as far as we could.”

Though Richard Gear won the overall title, they didn’t win the eight-person division. Family Van Go from Mono, Ont., cycled 25 laps, but were awarded 30 for completing five au naturel (a.k.a. naked).

The Sockeye Sallies also found their competitive juices flowing as the hours ticked by. The team of Paul Duyckinck, Ryan Rice, Matt Jillson and Dan Euclide, who all work at Sockeye Cycle in Skagway, won the four-person division.

“We’re tired, but it was tons of fun,” said Euclide. “We weren’t expecting anything. But then after the first eight laps, we were like, ‘Oh, we can win.’”

Sockeye members applied “lots of peer pressure to keep each other going,” added Euclide. “We’d leave the (timing chip) outside each other’s tent and say, ‘Wake up, it’s time for you to take a lap.’”

The Sockeye Sallies took the win with 28 laps, including four bonus birthday-suit laps.

“It’s very interesting to do it when it’s that dark and there’s bears around,” said Euclide. “I definitely thought of that more than I did before.”

For the second year in a row Whitehorse was shut out in the two solo divisions.

Edmonton couple Ashley Ryniak, 31, and Eric Penel, 34, won the female and male titles with 18 and 20 laps, respectively. The two have been mountain biking all over western Canada and planned their trip so they were in Whitehorse for the festival.

“In a way we’ve been training because we’ve been riding all over for the last nine months, so that helped,” said Penel.

Pacing was key, as were “baby potatoes and (energy drink) Perpetuem,” said Ryniak. “Energy drinks were a staple.”

Edmonton’s Monika Mannke placed second in solo female ahead of Whitehorse’s Erika Joubert. Edmonton’s Scott McGrath nabbed second in solo male ahead of Tyler Hollema from Rosemont, Ont.

Whitehorse’s School’s Out — Liam Keesey, Felix Masson, Benjamin Perreault, Arthur Mouchet and Louis Mouchet — completed 42 laps of the kids’ course to win the youth division.

Whitehorse’s Team Half Sack took first in the family division. On board were Samantha Samuelson with James, Carlisle, Lowell, Corbin and Jordan Minifie.

Daena Blixhavn and Ken Sidney of Canmore, Alta. took first in the two-person division with 19 laps.

“It was a great event,” said Contagious president Sierra van der Meer. “Lots of families this year, lots of intergenerational teams.

“It was a great fundraiser for us that’s going to help support a big trail-building initiative this year.”

Contact Tom Patrick at tomp@yukon-news.com

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