Whitehorse’s Preston Blackie has gone from last to fast.
After placing last in every stage in 2012, Blackie had extra reason to celebrate on Canada Day with a first-place finish in the expert men’s division of the Tour de Whitehorse on Monday.
“I feel good considering last year, the Tour de Whitehorse was my first race back since I decided to start racing again, and I got dead last,” said Blackie. “Between this and my finish in the Haines-to-Haines, I think I deserve the Yukon’s most-improved cyclist award.”
Blackie won the four-stage tour, organized by the VeloNorth Cycling Club, by taking second in Friday’s 1.3-kilometre hill climb, second in the 60-kilometre road race on Saturday, first in the 20-kilometre individual time trial on Sunday and third in Monday’s criterium on Titanium Way in Whitehorse’s industrial area.
Blackie, 34, a former professional mountain biker, hung up his bike in 2005. After placing last in every Tour de Whitehorse race (in the expert division) last year when he began riding again, he started training with the goal of doing the Kluane Chilkat International Bike Relay. He finished second in the solo men division in the 238-kilometre race from Haines Junction to Haines, Alaska, last month.
“I went for two or three bike rides (last year) and decided I can’t just ride for fun, I have to ride with a purpose,” said Blackie. “It’s too difficult to do something that I’ve been really good at in the past and not be really good at it now. If I’m going to do something, I’m the type of person who throws everything I have at it and do the best at it I can.
“I’ve spent 400 hours on my bike in the last 12 months leading up to the Haines-to-Haines … I’ve put in about 10,000 kilometres over the last year.
“I brought myself from being severely out of shape, from more or less a beginner, to being able to ride with the fastest guys in the Yukon. I’m pretty proud of myself to make it to this point in one year.”
Sunday’s time trial was also the Yukon Time Trial Championships, which adds a second title to Blackie’s weekend.
Blackie was actually sitting in second place, 16 seconds behind Whitehorse’s Elijah Buffalo, after the first two races,
Buffalo won the hill climb and the road race, which was the Yukon Road Race Championships, but did not compete in the time trial due to family obligations. That took him out of the running for the overall tour title.
“That’s the way the ball bounces,” said Blackie. “If you’re going to do a stage race, you have to do all the stages to win.
“I was kind of nervous going against Elijah in the time trial. It worked out in my favour that he didn’t race that day, but at the same time, that’s not how I want to win. If I’m going to win something, I want to beat my competitors on their best day.”
Buffalo had a good season. He won VeloNorth’s Carcross Cut-off Time Trial in May and finished third (just behind Blackie) in the solo category of the Kluane Chilkat.
Saturday was his first road race win and Yukon title.
“I think the fitness gain from Haines-to-Haines stuck around for this week,” said Buffalo, who finished second in the criterium on Monday. “The course (in the road race) was more suited to me – the hill-top finish, opposed to a sprint finish. I do a lot better on the hill climb than a sprint. I’m not as explosive as some of the other riders.”
Robert Rees finished second overall in the expert men category of the tour for the second year in a row.
Shea Hoffman, who will represent the Yukon at the Canada Summer Games next month, took third in the expert men’s tour.
Tim Sellars and Bill Curtis placed first and second respectively in the sport men division of the tour – the same as last year. David Jackson placed third.
Whitehorse’s Trena Irving regained the women’s tour title, cycling alone in the sport women’s division.
“That’s disappointing that there’s not more females out,” said Irving. “I went into the sport category because I really can’t call myself an expert. (I’m) coaching, so I’m cycling at someone else’s pace all the time. It’s different, but I don’t regret a minute of it.”
Irving, who won the expert division in 2011, spends a lot of her time working with the U Kon Echelon cycling club, a developmental club she founded.
“I still had a really good weekend, despite not having anyone there to push me,” said Irving.
Jillian Chown was the only entrant in the expert women’s division this year. Chown, who won the tour in expert women last year, only raced in Friday’s hill climb.
Audrey Sellars, alone in the masters women division, took the title by completing all four races.
Contact Tom Patrick at email@example.com