The name “the eliminator” makes the sprint mountain bike race sound cutthroat and merciless.
It is. Five bikers enter, two advance.
Yukon’s four mountain bikers competed in the eliminator sprint event to close out the Canada Summer Games in Sherbrooke, Que., on Wednesday.
Yukon’s Massey Baker got a good taste of the event’s ruthlessness. Baker started his heat with four other riders, hugging the wheel of the eventual gold-medal winner in second place, when another rider cut him off and sent him off the trail.
“I ended up falling off the trail and by the time I got up I was well behind the pack and couldn’t catch them again,” said Baker. “I had a pretty good start. I was feeling good about the race. I was holding the guy, was doing fine, was right behind him, and then got bumped and was off the trail. It’s one of those unfortunate things that happens. I could have done pretty good if I stayed on the trail.”
Baker ended up 26th out of 32 riders.
Watson Lake’s Spencer Skerget led the Yukon team with a 15th place finish in the eliminator in which riders go out five at a time on a technical 800-metre course with the top-two finishers advancing to the next stage.
“It’s an interesting type of racing,” said Skerget. “There’s a bunch of people trying to go down the same trail and it’s really fast and there’s lots of race tactics going on.”
Skerget placed third of the five in his heat, eliminated by the eventual silver and bronze medalists.
“It’s been awesome. It’s been lots of fun,” said Skerget. “It’s really fun to come to these bigger races and race against people that are better than me and like bike racing as much as I do. It’s just fun being in new places and meeting new people.”
Yukon’s lone female rider, Veronica Huggard, took 16th out of 18 riders in the women’s eliminator event.
“We have nothing like this back home, so qualifying was pretty sick,” said Huggard. “I started midway through the pack (in the qualifying), so not as nerve-racking as going first.”
Yukon’s Andrew Savard had the dubious honour of being the first to ride the course in the qualifying time segment before the elimination heats began. He ended up in a heat with the eventual gold medal winner, was eliminated and placed 30th.
“It was good. I know I got schooled pretty hard,” said Savard. “I went first, so I didn’t really know what time to beat. I was the first one to set the time for all the men. It was odd.
“It was really great riding, met a lot of new friends, which is good,” he added. “That’s probably the best part about the Games.”
Skerget, Baker and Savard rode to a sixth place finish out of 11 teams in the relay race in the team relay on Monday. The Yukon team cruised in just 16 seconds behind New Brunswick in fifth.
“It’s been a great time,” said Baker. “It’s definitely an experience. It’s great to get out and get into a Games this big. There’s nothing else around that’s at this level with people coming from so far away to compete in so many different sports.”
Skerget took a 16th-place finish in the opening cross-country race on Saturday.
Baker and Savard were lapped out of the race and placed 21st and 29th, respectively, out of 33 riders.
“I really enjoyed the cross-country race because of how much fun the course was,” said Skerget. “Even though I felt I could have done a little better in that race, I feel like it was my highlight of the Games.”
Huggard, finished 13th in the women’s cross-country race, beating three British Columbia riders and one from Saskatchewan. As the only female Yukon rider, Huggard was unable to compete in Monday’s relay.
“It’s been pretty unreal,” said Huggard. “This is what I signed up to do and just coming out here has been pretty great. There are a lot of awesome riders out here and it’s just a matter of taking what I learned here and applying it to how I want to ride next, how I tackle new races, how I look at my training plan.”
Skerget and Huggard’s results in the cross-country race represent the Yukon’s best in mountain biking at the Canada Games since 2005 when Whitehorse’s Daniel Sessford won Yukon its second-ever Canada Summer Games medal – a bronze – for mountain biking.
Road cycling at the Canada Games starts Monday with a time trial, followed by a road race Wednesday and a criterium Saturday. Yukon will be represented by Melanie Tait and Shea Hoffman in the road events.
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