Whitehorse mountain biker becomes world single speed champ

Late nights at bars often lead to spontaneous tattoos, but Sierra van der Meer's is not one she'll live to regret. It's a point of pride. In a manner of speaking, it's a flesh trophy.

Late nights at bars often lead to spontaneous tattoos, but Sierra van der Meer’s is not one she’ll live to regret. It’s a point of pride.

In a manner of speaking, it’s a flesh trophy. It commemorates a world championship title. But, indeed, the trip to the parlor began late at night in a bar in Alaska.

It’s in the rulebook, in fact, and just part of the wackiness that is the Singlespeed World Championships, held in Anchorage July 18-20.

The newly inked van der Meer won the women’s title at the championship.

“I’m trying not to let it get to my head,” said van der Meer. “It was a really fun event. I had a very excellent time. It was really fun to go out with my friends and be there.”

The Whitehorse rider and president of Yukon’s Contagious Mountain Bike Club is the first Canadian champion, male or female, since the inaugural event in 1995.

It’s a world championship, yes. But it’s really a festival – a party. It’s three days of single-speed mountain biking wrapped in funny costumes and the occasional barley pop.

Upon winning, champs are shuttled off to a tattoo parlor for the – let’s go with – trophy ceremony.

“I didn’t have any tattoos, so it was both a high and a low to win,” said van der Meer. “I was whisked away to get a tattoo and I didn’t know what the tattoo would be until it was placed on me.

“So that was a little bit scary. But I’m proud to be the first Canadian winner of the Singlespeed World Championships.”

Bikers need to race to win, but the first over the line is not necessarily the winner.

They first have to complete a series of challenges within the race to qualify for the final.

“First of all, you had to be at the bar for closing time at 3 a.m. and then you had to do the race the next morning at 7 a.m.,” said van der Meer. “It basically showed you could stay awake all night and then wake up.”

At this year’s championship the challenge was three loops of a roughly 10-kilometre course with bonus points for riders who rode more challenging black diamond sections of the trail. Within the loops were challenges like hitting a target with a slingshot, tossing a rock into a bucket and carrying the bike through a swamp.

There was also a stop in which riders did shots of cheap whiskey, but it wasn’t clear if that was part of the competition or just someone’s good will towards racers.

“I’m not sure what it counted for,” said Whitehorse’s Jonah Clark, who competed in the men’s event. “It was just there. They did put a mark on my number plate for doing it, but I don’t think it counted for anything in the end.”

“At some point they decided to not make it about the first person across the line, because they wanted it to be fun,” said van der Meer. “They wanted people to go out and enjoy themselves and not get sucked into spandex and race mentality. To enjoy the event as it is.

“You don’t know how they are going to decide the winner until they decide the winner.”

By completing the course and the various tasks, van der Meer was one of six women to qualify for the final.

Not unlike Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome, spectators formed a circle around the finalists as they prepared to battle.

It was a “no-foot-down competition” in which finalists attempt to force their competitors to put down a foot or lift a hand from the handlebars through any means in the small circle.

Van der Meer was victorious.

“The real challenge was that you weren’t allowed to be on your own bike,” said van der Meer. “You had to take a random bike from the crowd.

“The crowd surrounded us in a circle and you had to stay on your bike in a circle and people would run into each other and you would have to stay without putting your foot down.”

The Singlespeed World Championships were last held in North America in 2009. They were in Italy last year and South Africa the year before. Its relatively close proximity to Yukon was a bonus for Whitehorse riders.

Van der Meer was one of eight Yukoners to make the trip this year.

“There were a few single-speeders in town watching for when it would return to North America,” said van der Meer. “We were pretty pleased to see it was as close as Alaska.”

Clark, a two-time Yukon mountain biking champ, came the closest of the male Yukoners to reach the final, but a little bit of bad aim with the slingshot kept him out.

“I screwed up the slingshot skills,” said Clark. “The event itself was a blast. I think the event, for the organizers, is about getting together, riding bikes and having fun with a bunch of people, and racing being a kinda of secondary activity.”

Contact Tom Patrick at tomp@yukon-news.com

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

During our recent conversation, John Nicholson showed me snapshots of his time working on the Yukon riverboats 70 years ago. (Michael Gates)
History Hunter: Yukon man relives the riverboat days after seven decades

John Nicholson took summer work on Yukon steamers in the 1950s

NDP candidate Annie Blake, left, and Liberal incumbent Pauline Frost. (Submitted photos)
Official recount confirms tie vote in Vuntut Gwitchin riding

Both candidates Pauline Frost and Annie Blake are still standing with 78 votes each

Artist’s rendering of a Dairy Queen drive-thru. At its April 13 meeting, Whitehorse city council approved a zoning change to allow a drive-thru at 107 Range Road. Developers sought the change to build a Dairy Queen there. (Submitted)
Drive-thru approved by Whitehorse city council at 107 Range Road

Rezoning could pave the way for a Dairy Queen

xx
WYATT’S WORLD

Wyatt’s World for April 14, 2021.… Continue reading

École Whitehorse Elementary Grade 7 students Yumi Traynor and Oscar Wolosewich participated in the Civix Student Vote in Whitehorse on April 12. (Haley Ritchie/Yukon News)
Yukon Student Vote chooses Yukon Party government; NDP take popular vote

The initiative is organized by national non-profit CIVIX

Yvonne Clarke is the newly elected Yukon Party MLA for Porter Creek Centre. (Submitted/Yukon Party)
Yvonne Clarke elected as first Filipina MLA in the Yukon Legislative Assembly

Clarke beat incumbent Liberal Paolo Gallina in Porter Creek Centre

Emily Tredger at NDP election night headquarters after winning the Whitehorse Centre riding. (Stephanie Waddell/Yukon News)
Emily Tredger takes Whitehorse Centre for NDP

MLA-elect ready to get to work in new role

Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Brendan Hanley. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)
Two new cases of COVID-19 variant identified in territory

“If variants were to get out of control in the Yukon, the impact could be serious.”

lwtters
Today’s Mailbox: Rent freezes and the youth vote

Dear Editor, I read the article regarding the recommendations by the Yukon… Continue reading

Point-in-Time homeless count planned this month

Volunteers will count those in shelters, short-term housing and without shelter in a 24-hour period.

The Yukon’s new ATIPP Act came into effect on April 1. Yukoners can submit ATIPP requests online or at the Legislative Assembly building. (Gabrielle Plonka/Yukon News file)
New ATIPP Act in effect as of April 1

The changes promise increased government transparency

A new conservancy in northern B.C. is adjacent to Mount Edziza Provincial Park. (Courtesy BC Parks)
Ice Mountain Lands near Telegraph Creek, B.C., granted conservancy protection

The conservancy is the first step in a multi-year Tahltan Stewardship Initiative

Most Read