In mid-July, David Gonda was invited to join Team Yukon and compete at the Canada Summer Games even though he was just in his first year of competitive cycling.
The 21-year-old had to quickly become accustomed to many of the ins and outs of high-level competition, including some aspects you probably wouldn’t expect.
“That was probably one of the most tense races I’ve ever been in,” said the Whitehorse resident. “It’s hard to describe the sound of carbon and flesh skidding on the pavement when going right beside it. There were multiple crashes – probably five or six, I guess – with people going down hard.”
“This is probably the most blood I’ve seen in a race,” added teammate Ryan Burlingame.
On Thursday, much of downtown Summerside, PEI, was fenced off as the best young cyclists Canada has to offer participated in a road race, the third cycling event of the Games this week.
It seems almost all the Yukoners in the race had close calls, but they managed to end the race with the same amount of skin they started with.
“The scariest one for me (came) 500 metres before the feed-zone,” said Burlingame. “I went back to take a swig of water and finish off a Gel Shot when somebody nudged me into a pothole – I had one hand on my (handlebar) and it sent me wobbling and I jumped the curb.
“It was a shot of adrenaline, like jumping off Miles Canyon Bridge.”
A couple laps later, Burlingame saw some other riders have a worse encounter with a curb.
“Going around the corner after the feed-zone – it was a high-speed corner and everybody was cruising at about 45 (kilometres an hour) and two guys caught on the outside hit the curb and all you heard was bikes breaking, carbon snapping and skin on pavement,” said Burlingame, with the solemn reflection of a soldier recently home from war.
“There may be more blood one day than the other, but they’re all fun.”
For the third time this week, Whitehorse’s Heather Enders cracked the top-20, finishing 17th in the women’s race. Earlier in the week, Enders finished 19th in the cross-country/mountain bike event and 16th in the individual time trial.
“There were a couple breakaways and Team Quebec and Team BC were blocking us and slowing the pace until we – Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta, Ontario and myself – got past,” said Enders. “There were little breakaways after that but we kept pestering them and kept the race really tight.”
Enders managed to stick with the lead pack for the entire race and pushed herself into her final spot in the sprint to the finish line.
“I was in the back half of the lead pack and I had a lot of work to do to get to where I finished,” said Enders. “But I squeezed through a couple holes here and there and had a good finish.”
The finish was so close
– within a second – the whole pack gets the same official time. About two-dozen riders crossed the finish line within moments, but the layout of the course increased the likelihood of close finishes, said Enders.
“There weren’t so many hills and on flat courses the pack generally had to stay together,” she said. “You have the hill climbers that just give’er on the hills.”
Teammate Kaitlyn Mary MacDonald produced her third middle-of-the-field results of the week, finishing 29th. MacDonald began the week taking 28th in the cross-country race and 39th in the time trial.
Team Yukon’s Kelsey Kabanak, held up by the crash that happened in front of her during the race, finished 34th, up five spots from her individual time trial race on Tuesday. So far at the Games, her best result was a 24th-place finish in the cross-country event on Monday.
For the Yukon men, Jesse Reams again brought in the best finish, coming in 29th, down from his 11th place finish in the time trial.
Teammate Troy Henry – who finished 32nd and was immediately followed by Gonda and Burlingame – pulled away from the pack during the final lap in hopes of helping Reams reach the front but may have hurt his results in the attempt.
“In the last 200 metres it’s his job getting to the front, so on the last quarter of the lap I was pulling and actually dropped Team BC and Quebec for a sec (going) 55, 60 kilometres an hour,” said Henry. “It might not have been imperative to pull away because it kind of screwed up my finish.”
Earlier in the week, Henry finished 19th in the time trail while Burlingame and Gonda came 39th and 53rd. Equipment failures prevented Henry from finishing the cross-country event, but Gonda pulled off a 22nd-place finish and Burlingame came 29th.
The close call that Henry remembers best in the road race happened when he took a corner too fast and had to lock up his rear wheel to avoid incident.
“I had to get it to slide to avoid hitting the curb,” said Henry. “It’s not really a typical road-biker way of doing it, but that’s my mountain bike background – sliding around the corner to get around it.”
If the road race sounds dicey, incidents are actually more likely in Friday’s criterium events, in which riders have less room to spread out on the downtown Summerside course.
“Tomorrow is going to be crazy,” said Henry. “It was crazy today with the 10-kilometre loop; tomorrow it’s a one-kilometre loop with 60 guys going all-out the whole way. It’s basically the best bike race to watch.”
But as race commissioner, Matthew Knight, points out, “(Crashes) are in the nature of cycling.”
Contact Tom Patrick at