Yukon mountain bikers get new king

Whitehorse’s Jonah Clark is practically ubiquitous at cycling events in the Yukon, now he’s also a champion. After coming close numerous times, Clark won the King of the Canyon mountain bike race...

Whitehorse’s Jonah Clark is practically ubiquitous at cycling events in the Yukon, now he’s also a champion.

After coming close numerous times, Clark won the King of the Canyon mountain bike race, beginning and ending at Schwatka Lake on Sunday, completing the 52-kilometre course in two hours, 43 minutes, seven seconds.

It was his first time winning the season-ending race that is also the Yukon Mountain Bike Championships.

“I’ve been a bridesmaid a number of times, I’ve never actually won it,” said Clark. “It’s fun to win it, but I would have preferred to beat (David Gonda) without a mechanical. We were riding together up to that point.”

Defending champion David Gonda, who was going for his third consecutive title, was forced out of the race about 20 kilometres in with a broken rear derailleur hanger.

“My shifting was off from the start, I don’t know why – it may have been something some weird with the rear derailleur going into the race,” said Gonda. “On a piece of single track I think a little stick got in there and just ripped it off the derailleur hanger.

“I couldn’t replace the derailleur hanger and I tried to single-speed it by removing the derailleur completely – making the chair shorter. That didn’t work and then the chain broke again.”

Multiple-time champion Daniel Sessford, who won the Yukon’s first ever mountain biking medal at the Canada Summer Games in 2005, was absent from the race.

“All the fast guys have won it over the years, so it feels pretty good to have won it for once, rather than being second to Dave or Daniel,” said Clark. “That’s been the situation for the last five years.”

Taking second in the race was Paul Burbidge in 3:03:06, followed by Marcus Wattereus in 3:06:02.

While the king was forced to abdicate his throne, the queen maintained her crown. Whitehorse’s Tamara Goeppel defended her title, completing the long course in 3:15:13. Though, as the only female to tackle the long course, simply finishing would have secured the win, Goeppel still outpaced the majority of male riders for sixth overall.

“There are all these boys around and there’s lots of pride on the line still,” said Goeppel. “It wasn’t an easy race in that sense; there’s still lots of competition.

“It was a tough race because there’s lots of climbing. But at a few times I could actually feel the sun – it was like a gift. So I was glad to be on the course.”

The royal court also saw a new prince and princess in Sunday’s championships, both first-time winners of the race.

Land Pearson was first to complete the roughly 30-kilometre short course in 2:44:35, beating out his brother and only other male competitor, Sky Pearson, by a second.

“I expected a little more competition than my brother and some girls,” said Pearson. “I don’t know if it’s that great a victory, but I’m happy I got to be the prince of the canyon.

“Next year I think I’ll actually go for the King. I don’t think I’ll challenge for the king, but I’ll go for it.”

Julie DesBrisay was crowned princess with a time of 3:19:08, just a fraction of a second ahead of friend Jenn Roberts. Not only did they ride the trails together, they held hands over the finish line – with DesBrisay’s front wheel slightly ahead – as they did last year, tying for fourth place.

“We waited for each other all the way around,” said DesBrisay. “Jenn guided me along Death Trail – I hate Death Trail.”

Leslie Vandermass took third in the princess division with a time of 3:21:26.

A total of 31 cyclists took part in the race, which took riders from Schwatka Long to Long Lake along the Grey Mountain trails, up Grey Mountain, and then down the Yukon River trail towards the start.

“That derailleur hanger made it through the whole season,” said Gonda. “It broke now, but it could have happened in a much bigger race.”

Very true. Gonda came third in the four-day TransRockies Challenge mountain bike race the previous weekend, going from Fernie, BC, to Canmore, Alberta.

Just before that, Gonda, who represented the Yukon at the 2009 Canada Summer Games, finished 10th in the three-day version of the TransRockies race.

Goeppel also had a productive season, on and off the roads. She began the road season by breaking her own course record at VeloNorth’s annual Skagway Hill Climb in May and then was on the winning four-person mixed team at the Kluane Chilkat International Bike Relay in June.

On her mountain bike Goeppel competed in the Absa Cape Epic Race in South Africa with partner Thomas Tetz in March.

In the mixed team of the eight-day, over 700-kilometre race, Goeppel and Tetz finished 13th and would have been first in the masters division had age been factored in.

It was an eventful season for Clark as well. With 10 stitches still in his elbow from a fall the previous weekend, Clark won his third Dry Tri duathlon title in July.

The 2007 Tour de Whitehorse champ was also on the winning four-person men’s team at the Kluane Chilkat, a race he has twice won as a solo rider.

Clark also came sixth in Alaska’s Soggy Bottom 100 backcountry race at the start of the month.

Contact Tom Patrick at tomp@yukon-news.com