Considering the world-class mountain bike trails the territory has to offer, it should be no surprise Yukon cyclists would secure their best results off road at the Western Canada Summer Games.
All three members of Yukon’s cycling team notched their highest finishes in mountain bike events this week in Fort McMurray, Alta.
“They learned a lot and, yeah, our kids have some good mountain bike skills, that’s for sure,” said Team Yukon cycling coach Trena Irving.
Whitehorse’s Sara Burke-Forsyth posted the highest finish for the team. The 19-year-old took 11th in the cross-country mountain bike race on Tuesday, 33 seconds from a top-10 finish.
“That’s pretty good – that’s almost top 10 – for somebody who has never competed at that level before,” said Irving. “Just to give an example of the calibre, the girl who came first – her name is Emily (Handford) – is going to the worlds next year.
“It’s great to see that level of competition, but at the same time, our athletes aren’t quite at that level yet.”
On Monday Burke-Forsyth took 15th in the mountain bike eliminator, in which cyclists advance through a series heats on a short course, much like in snowboardcross.
Burke-Forsyth began the Games with 13th in the time trial on Saturday and 14th in the road race on Sunday.
Those results placed her at 14th in the general classification out of 19 cyclists. (Twenty female cyclists started the Games before a Saskatchewan cyclist withdrew following a bad crash in the time trial.)
Burke-Forsyth was joined by male teammates Shea Hoffman and Ian Hansen.
Hoffman, who is the most veteran athlete on Team Yukon with now eight major Games under his belt, produced his best finish in the eliminator with 13th.
“Shea won one of his heats, so that was exciting, and Ian and Sarah came second in one of theirs,” said Irving.
Hoffman, 20, also came 17th in the cross-country race, 17th in the time trial and 20th in the road race.
Hansen raced to 17th in the eliminator, 19th in the cross-country race, 20th in the road race – tying Hoffman – and 21st in the time trial.
“That was his first time Outside racing at that level and he didn’t have a time trial bike and lots of kids did, and that gives you a two- or three-minute advantage,” said Irving.
At the end of competition on Tuesday, Hoffman placed 19th and Hansen 20th out of 22 riders in the general classification.
Getting dropped by the pack on the first hill of the road race had a large effect on their eventual GC standings, said Irving.
“Both boys got spit off in the road race … the road race was intense,” said Irving. “They got dropped on the first hill and they worked like heck to power up and not lose that group. The group split into two, like I knew it would, and by not getting on that second group they did not have a chance to be in a group and that’s why they were gapped by half an hour.
“They worked together the whole race … which was beautiful.”
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