Racers take off from the Schwatka Lake boat launch parking lot to kick off the 2019 Royalty of the Canyon mountain bike race in Whitehorse on Aug. 25. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)

The return of the king: Dave Gonda wins Royalty of the Canyon

“There are still lots of people that want to cross-country mountain bike”

The Contagious Mountain Bike Club’s Royalty of the Canyon, a new and larger version of the King of the Canyon, race crowned a new royal family on Aug. 25 after steady rain forced a one-day delay.

Originally scheduled for Aug. 24, organizers made the decision to delay the race after heavy rain left the course muddy with slick tree roots and rocks.

Colin McCann, an event organizer, said he and race volunteers made the decision after arriving at the Schwatka Lake boat launch for the start.

“On my drive down there, there were puddles everywhere,” said McCann. “The truck was coated in mud — just nasty.”

He said the race sweepers — those that ride behind the racers — didn’t want to ride in the difficult conditions and since all the volunteers were available the next day, McCann said it was an easy decision to reschedule.

Things improved in time for the rescheduled start.

Rain stopped early in the afternoon on Aug. 24 and by the new start time on Aug. 25, the trail had started to dry and, more importantly, the roots and rocks along the trail had started to dry.

“Conditions for the actual dirt were awesome,” said McCann. “The roots were still a little bit slippery.”

A total of 14 riders raced in the event, up from nine at last year’s King of the Canyon. Last year’s event was also stricken by rainy, cold weather on race day.

This year, 10 riders rode in the full 50-kilometre race to be king or queen and four riders rode in the 25-km race to be crowned prince or princess.

Dave Gonda won the title of king with a winning time of two hours and 38 minutes. Gonda entered the race with the most wins, but had not competed in the last few years.

Second place went to last year’s winner Ian Parker with a time of three hours and four minutes. Lionel Stanley was third with a time of three hours and eight minutes.

This year’s queen of the canyon was Chrissy McConnell who finished in three hours and 47 minutes.

In the 25-km race, Maude Molgat and her father J.P. Molgat both finished in two hours flat, earning the titles of princess and prince of the canyon respectively.

McCann said given the difficult conditions and the last-minute rescheduling, he was pleased with the turnout.

“I was happy to see 14 people come out because it could have been zero, it could have been two,” said McCann.

This is the second year McCann has spearheaded the event and he said he still sees tremendous potential for the event to morph into even more of a family-friendly event.

McCann said he wants to build on some of the things already included in the Royalty of the Canyon, like the post-race barbecue, with music and kids events.

The event has drawn upwards of 40 riders in recent memory, but bad weather the last two years has tempered turnouts.

With the 24 Hours of Light off the schedule, McCann said he sees potential for this event to grow into that void and become the primary family mountain biking race of the summer.

“There are still lots of people that want to cross-country mountain bike,” said McCann. “With 40 people, it would be more of a party atmosphere.”

Contact John Hopkins-Hill at john.hopkinshill@yukon-news.com

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