U Kon Echelon hosted a mountain biking camp in Whitehorse from Sept. 28 to 30 with instructors from Terra Riders. (Trena Irving/U Kon Echelon Bike Club)

U Kon Echelon holds weekend mountain bike racing camp in Whitehorse

“It’s incredible the changes I’m seeing from when we started in September to now”

U Kon Echelon Bike Club held a mountain bike stage race and skills camp in Whitehorse from Sept. 28 to 30 with guest instructors from Terra Riders.

Organizer Trena Irving said the camp covered skills required for enduro, cross-country and time trial racing, and despite a lower than expected turnout, was a hit with participants.

“I thought we might get a few more,” said Irving. “I know there were some other things going on … so it was kind of low-key.”

The hope is that a future camp will be able to build off this one.

“What I said to Dan (Sams), our head instructor, is we’ll replicate this in the spring or summer and have an idea of what we would add to it or do a little bit differently and see if we can find another time when more people are able to attend,” said Irving.

Riders came out of the weekend with a better understanding of what’s possible and with experience leading up to next summer’s Western Canada Summer Games.

“(Sunday) we were doing a section that was very rocky and very vertical, and the kids were just pushing their boundaries going down that … section at speed,” said Irving. “That was neat to see — the improvement and what could be possible — because (Sams) went down it on his bike at full speed, and we’re like, ‘Oh, that’s what we’re striving to do someday. Not right now, but someday.”

Although there were just six participants over the course of the weekend, there were still a pair of races completed — a time trial and a cross-country race.

While enduro racing focuses on downhill riding, the uphill portion of the race is untimed, time trial and cross-country races both utilize similar courses with a balance between uphill and downhill sections.

“You’re not just doing more of one or more of the other,” said Irving. “It’s a mix of both … going through some roots, some rocks, some uphills, some downhills, berms, (rolling)-type sections and being able to navigate that at speed, which is different than just going for a ride because you’re trying to get through these things that could potentially knock you off your bike if you’re not coordinated.”

In the cross-country race, Veronica Porter finished the long course first with a time of 15 minutes and two seconds while Ava Irving-Staley was second with a time of 17 mintues and 32 seconds.

Johna Irving-Staley won the short course with a time of 16 minutes and four seconds with Tristan Cruickshank in second with a time of 18 minutes and 34 seconds.

For the time trial, Irving said riders are able to set their own pace without worrying about other riders.

“We wanted to see, without everyone being on each other’s wheels, how fast someone could do it at their own pace,” said Irving. “We went through the course and looked at the technical features of it, and then we timed it.”

In the time trial race, Porter was first in 17 minutes and 54 seconds, Ava Irving-Staley was second in 18 minutes and nine seconds, Nathan Boulanger was third in 22 minutes and 38 seconds despite mechanical issues, and Johna Irving-Staley was fourth with a time of 23 minutes and 31 seconds.

The weekend also included some time in the bike park working on different skills and some impromptu pump track races.

Irving said the instruction from Sams and Jared MacNeil of Terra Riders was popular with the riders.

“(Sams) is a really excellent instructor,” said Irving. “He’s a good rider, he’s knowledgeable, and as a result, these kids’ skills are improving in leaps and bounds. It’s incredible the changes I’m seeing from when we started in September to now.”

With the temperature dropping, attention is turning to winter training and Irving said there are some new ideas in the works alongside the usual winter spin sessions.

“This year, something new that’s really neat is we have 10 fat bikes from Icycle (Sports) and we’re going to be doing fat biking for training,” said Irving. “We may or may not try to put on an event — a race — but we’ll just see how it goes and see what the interest is.”

The hope is to not only involve members of U Kon Echelon, but local high school students as well for an after-school riding club through the winter.

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

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