Whitehorse’s Tamara Goeppel races the Salzkammergut Trophy marathon mountain bike event July 15 in Austria. Goeppel became the first Canadian woman to finish the “extreme” division in the race’s 20-year history. (Robert Stefaniak/Sportograf photo)

Whitehorse mountain biker logs historic finish in gruelling Austrian race

Tamara Goeppel becomes first Canadian woman to finish ‘extreme’ division

With epic races come epic finishes — if you finish.

Whitehorse’s Tamara Goeppel stayed the course on a very long course at the Salzkammergut Trophy marathon mountain bike race on July 15 in Austria.

By reaching the finish line (absolutely caked in mud) Goeppel became the first Canadian woman to finish the race’s “extreme” division, the toughest of the seven divisions in the 20th annual event that saw about 5,000 bikers from 40 nations take part.

“If the race had 5,000 metres less climbing, I think it would be quite fun,” said Goeppel in an email to the News. “There is a final big climb of 700 metres which almost broke me. At that point I felt I was too close to the finish to surrender and I just had to limp my way over this mountain. Not even a muddy descent could have made me happy at that point … just the finish line.”

Goeppel, a three-time Yukon mountain bike champion, finished the 210-kilometre course in 15 hours, 21 minutes and 36 seconds. She placed seventh overall for women and second in the women’s 40 division.

Out of the 22 women in the extreme division, eight didn’t finish. The course included over 7,000 metres of climbing — that’s over three quarters the height of Mount Everest.

“When I crossed the finish line, I did not have tears of joy … I think I was just stunned,” said Goeppel. “In fact, still today I can’t understand 7,000 metres of climbing in a one-day mountain bike event … That is just crazy!”

“I did enjoy most of the descents as some of them were pretty muddy and slippery and super fast. But I spent most of the day trying to dodge the temptation to quit the race. There were many dark hours. This is definitely an event that taxes your physical and mental strength to the limit.”

This wasn’t the first time Goeppel has notched a strong finish in Europe. She raced the Trans Schwarswald, a five-day 395-kilometre stage race through Germany’s Black Forest, in 2012. She placed third in her category and 14th overall for solo women.

In 2013 Goeppel became the first Yukoner to win a stage in the B.C. Bike Race, a seven-day mountain bike stage race. The next year she placed second in masters women in the weeklong B.C. race.

“My last big mountain bike race was the B.C. Bike Race in 2014 and I thought that would be my last race,” said Goeppel. “This January I decided I wanted to see if I could still race. If I still had that edge. I have always had my eye on the Salzkammergut Trophy so I decided to try the race. January is always a dangerous month to make race decisions.”

Contact Tom Patrick at tomp@yukon-news.com

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