The U Kon Echelon Bike Club hosted the Tour de Skagway on May 18 and 19 along the South Klondike Highway between Fraser, B.C., and Skagway, Alaska.
A three-stage race, the Tour started with a time trial and road race on day one and a hill climb on day two.
Head coach Trena Irving said the hill climb, from Dyea, Alaska, up to the summit, is the deciding factor in who wins the general classification, GC, standings — the cumulative time from all stages — in each category.
“You’ve got a 20-kilometre hill climb, which is not everybody’s forte,” said Irving. “It’s hard. It hurts.”
While the youngest riders rode only a portion of the hill climb, older riders rode the full 20 km — many of whom completed a 20-km time trial and a 72-km road race the day before.
“That’s not a lot of distance, but it is because we’re climbing a significant amount each time going up into the summit and then coming back down,” said Irving about the road race. “There are headwinds and it’s a big climb, so everyone is going to have very, very heavy legs at the end of today.”
A total of 13 riders rode in all three stages, and a further 15 rode in at least one stage.
The fastest male in GC was Denny Bohmer with a combined time of three hours, 27 minutes and 50 seconds.
The fastest overall female was Mara Roldan with a time of four hours, 15 minutes and four seconds.
Mara and her twin sister Aisha Roldan are part of a group of Yukon riders heading to Penticton, B.C., this week for the Hayman Classic — the junior road British Columbia provincial championships.
New to road racing, the sisters are both accomplished mountain bikers and both say road racing has had required some adjustments.
“Riding beside the road and cars passing were kind of a bit scary at first, but you get used to it,” said Mara. “It’s like when you pass beside a tree or something and you just learn not to think of it all the time.”
Aisha said she’s glad to be switching from mountain biking to road biking, rather than the inverse.
“You pretty much need the endurance and the mind power to keep rolling and just keep on going,” said Aisha. “I feel like the transition of going from mountain biking to road biking is a bit easier than the other way around because when you go from road biking to mountain biking, you don’t have any technique on rocks or roots or single tracks.”
That’s not to say road racing doesn’t require technique — both sisters mentioned the difficulty in learning to ride wheel to wheel in a peloton, a group of riders, at speed.
“(Criteriums), I’ve done two and I’ve liked it but I can imagine with 50 people or even 100 people it could be pretty scary sometimes,” said Mara. “It’s the big peloton and also going through corners.”
Aisha echoed Mara’s sentiment.
“Just being together in a peloton and just really working together, I think was a great experience because you don’t do that in mountain biking,” said Aisha, adding the peloton is unnerving at times. “Being surround by other riders going down a steep hill or going up (a hill) and someone is behind you, you can’t brake too much or you’re going to make them crash. … It was definitely very tricky just having someone all around you in a very large space and knowing that if you do something wrong, it could affect everyone around you.”
Joining Mara and Aisha in the under 17 category at the Tour de Skagway were Veronica Porter and Ava Irving-Staley.
Although the four did not all ride identical races — Irving-Staley rode a shorter road race and Aisha rode a shorter hill climb — the competitive times within the group bode well for not only the Hayman Classic, but the upcoming Western Canada Summer Games as well.
Not only that, but Irving acknowledged many of the courses the club races on in the Yukon are on par with the more difficult races riders will find Outside.
“I would say this is a bit tougher,” said Irving about the time trial course, comparing it to time trials the club rode in last summer in Quebec. “It depends on the race. If you’re going high-calibre racing like Canada Games, absolutely you’d have hard, hard climbs like this. Maybe in some other races you might have it, but I don’t know if you’d be looping through it as much as we’re going to.”
While racing is very much about time, Aisha summed up what it is that the riders seem to take away from racing.
“Self-achievement,” she said. “I love that part about racing — just feeling like you can do better each time. I like that feeling. It’s a good feeling.”
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