They called it. They know their stuff.
Following Saturday’s cross-country race, Yukon’s three male mountain bikers predicted stronger results in the shorter races at the Canada Summer Games this week.
Yukon’s Spencer Skerget, Massey Baker and Andrew Savard rode to a sixth place finish out of 11 teams in the relay race on Monday.
Baker summed up their performance succinctly: “It was awesome.”
“I think we’re all a bit better at shorter racing,” he added. “Andrew and I spend a lot of time racing single-speed dirt jump bikes. So we spend a lot of time just sprinting and we’re not so good with the long distance. Short sprints are more our thing than long grueling rides and more of the endurance-based (races).”
Skerget was the eighth one in on the opening leg. Baker then moved the team up to sixth in his, and Savard held the position until the finish line.
They were just four seconds in front of Newfoundland’s racer, who was followed in by P.E.I., Saskatchewan, Alberta and Manitoba in last. Quebec took first ahead of Ontario in second and B.C. in third.
Yukon cruised in just 16 seconds behind New Brunswick in fifth.
“It could have been a pretty epic sprint if Andrew was a little faster out of the forest,” said Baker.
Of course Savard – or any of the riders – wasn’t lollygagging out on the roughly six-kilometre course at Sherbrooke’s largest park, Monte Bellevue. In a short race like that, riders go out full-tilt and push it till they either reach the finish or their legs explode.
“When you see someone in this race (ahead of you) you don’t have that reserve of energy to go and catch someone because you’re already pushing as hard as you can,” said Baker. “You’re only doing one lap instead of four, so you’re not trying to save any energy for the rest of the race. You’re just trying to leave it all on the line.”
Monday was the second time at the Games Skerget finished mid-pack. He cracked the top-20 with a 16th-place finish in Saturday’s cross-country race on basically the same course, but with four laps of it. He was the only Yukon rider to complete the full men’s race.
Baker and Savard were lapped out of the race and placed 21st and 29th, respectively, out of 33 riders.
A short but massive downpour during the women’s race before the men’s, followed by intermittent showers all afternoon, made for a muddy outing.
“It was super tough. The conditions were interesting, really slippery and slick, and a lot of people were sliding all over the place,” said Skerget on Saturday. “It just made it interesting.”
Yukon’s lone female rider, Veronica Huggard, finished 13th in the women’s three-lap race on Saturday, beating three British Columbian riders and one Saskatchewanian. She and her teammates competed at a Canada Cup last month, but racing with Olympians and pro riders in an open class made it difficult to avoid getting lapped out.
“I’m feeling pretty good, going from a Canada Cup where I didn’t even finish to here where I finished,” said Huggard, following Saturday’s mud fest. “I had more goals, like sticking to (other riders’) wheels and just giving it all I really had because this is what we’ve been training for.
“I feel really great. I succeeded. I don’t know how I placed, but I feel like I did what I came to do. I feel like this summer has been a success.”
Skerget and Huggard’s results in the cross-country race represent the Yukon’s best 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.
As the only female Yukon rider, Huggard was unable to compete in Monday’s relay.
The Yukon mountain bikers will be back in action for an even shorter race on Wednesday.
Up next is the sprint event with an eliminator format similar to snowboardcross in which riders will go out four at a time on a technical 800-metre course with the top-two advancing to the next stage.
“The Games are an awesome experience and this race did a lot for our team,” said Baker. “We got up there with some of the big names that beat us (on Saturday), some of the bigger teams. We finished ahead of Alberta and Saskatchewan.”
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