Half as many Yukon cyclists entered the B.C. Bike Race than last year, but that didn’t prevent even stronger results in the seven-day mountain bike stage race that ended last Saturday in Whistler.
Whitehorse riders Stephen Ball, Sierra van der Meer and Tamara Goeppel each finished in the top-10 in at least one stage against riders from around the world.
“I was really happy with my result. I wasn’t there to win anything, I was there to have fun and see what the trails were like,” said van der Meer. “For me, it was to see if I could put out my maximum effort every day without sort of dying. I felt really strong the last couple days and for me that was really good.
“The women’s category was quite competitive. It was nice because when I compared myself to the men’s category, I was finishing in the top-60 riders.”
Ball placed 11th overall out of 122 cyclists in the solo masters men division after all seven stages.
Van der Meers placed 12th out of 23 riders in solo women.
Goeppel, who was racing in solo masters women, did not get to finish the full event because of a family emergency.
However, after placing second in the first two stages, she became the first Yukoner to win a stage on Day 3.
“It was hard, I’ve never not finished a race,” said Goeppel. “But it was a good decision to make.
“Whenever you enter a seven-day race, you just hope for seven finishes. It’s really hard going at it seven days straight. The B.C. Bike Race is not only hard on the rider, it’s hard on the bike. It’s a really tough race that way.”
Before scratching after the third stage, Goeppel also won two Enduro segments – mini downhill races within each stage – on Day 2 and Day 3.
“It was really great being down there with other Yukoners,” said Goeppel, a three-time women’s Yukon mountain biking champion. “I really loved the idea of being down there with Stephen and Sierra. We’d always meet each other after the day of racing and exchange war stories.”
Van der Meer had consistent results through the week. She placed 12th in three stages, topping out with ninth on Stage 6 and bottoming out with 17th on Stage 5.
“Squamish was definitely my favourite stage,” said van der Meer. “There are a few sections that are technical and I really like the trails in Squamish.
“It was Day 6 and I was feeling strong that day.”
Her first time in the race did not come without incident. On the first day, while turning onto a bridge, van der Meer’s tires lost all traction on the slippery surface and she slid right off it.
“I didn’t expect it to be slippery and it was,” said van der Meer. “It was fine, just a little unexpected.”
“It was really fun, it’s a really nice event,” added van der Meer, who is president of Yukon’s Contagious Mountain Bike Club. “It’s well organized and there’s lots of really nice trails in there. You see a lot of different riding in a short period of time.”
Ball experienced his own difficulties on Day 1, getting lost and placing 24th. But Ball bounced back to place in the top-15 in every other stage, finishing strong with ninth in Stage 6 and seventh in Stage 7.
“He got quite lost the first day, so he could have had a top-10 finish had he not gone off track a bit on Day 1,” said van der Meer. “I got lost on Day 5, so we both got a little bit rerouted.”
The B.C. Bike Race, which calls itself “the ultimate singletrack experience,” began in Nanaimo on June 28. Riders cycle about 328 kilometres in the week-long event that saw 448 entered this year.
“It’s fun to go down and see how great other trails are. But when you go down and ride these exceptional trails, when you come back to Whitehorse you realize the trails here are just as wonderful if not better,” said van der Meer. “We have such an amazing trail network. We’re on par with everywhere else in terms of great trails.
“One thing I did notice at the B.C. Bike Race is that more and more people know about the Yukon and are interested in our trail network. It’s fun to go down and hear other people talk about the Yukon and how positive they are.”
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