The lion’s share of Tour of Juneau titles left Alaska for the Yukon early this week.
Whitehorse cyclists captured five out of seven divisions in the Tour, leaving only two for Juneau riders.
Exporting the titles from Juneau were Troy Henry in the men’s division, Melanie Tait in sport women, Shea Hoffman in youth men, Tanicka Reeves in youth female and Darryl Tait in the handcycle division.
Henry’s win came with just five seconds to spare in the four-stage tour.
“Competition was strong and there were a lot of tactics being played,” said Henry.
Henry won the prologue, the hill climb, the time trial and placed fourth in the 52-mile road race, just barely hanging onto the top spot.
Sunday’s win for Henry was his second Alaskan Tour title, having won the Tour of Anchorage last summer. He also placed eighth and 11th the previous weekend in Calgary’s Tour of Bowness. Henry represented the Yukon in cycling at the 2009 Canada Summer Games, taking in a top-20 finish.
He completed the one-mile prologue with a blistering average speed of 51.4 kilometres an hour.
“I took a bit of time off road racing this year because I was focusing on (speed) skating during the summer,” said Henry. “This season I’ve still been riding a fair amount, but I’ve been focusing on long-track speed skating, trying to get better at that.”
Melanie’s win is a little more unexpected. This is her first season of competitive cycling.
Her result in the prologue was also unexpected. Melanie defeated Juneau’s Janice Sheufelt by four seconds. Sheufelt has won the Tour of Juneau, the Tour de Whitehorse and the solo women’s division of the Kluane Chilkat Bike Relay.
“She is definitely an amazing rider,” said Tait. “I beat her in the first race. I think she was maybe a bit surprised at that. You could tell her competitive side came out for the rest of the races.”
Sheufelt went on to win the expert division, two spots up from Whitehorse’s Trena Irving in third. The final race, the road race, is when riders were split between sport and expert classes.
“When they announced (the results) of the first time trial, I wasn’t sure how I would do,” said Tait. “Everyone there had all the gear, and I was definitely the youngest in the women’s category. They said the winner was from Canada and people seemed a bit surprised because they expect to be hearing Janice.
“I could tell people would be watching to see how I’d do in the other ones.”
Hoffman won the youth male division in front of four other Whitehorse cyclists, claiming the title with a 15 minute lead over second place’s Brace Lemphers. However, Lemphers almost took Hoffman in the hill climb, finishing five seconds back of Hoffman.
“Shea sprinted at the end and did exactly what a bike racer is supposed to do,” said Irving, Hoffman’s coach. “The other guy thought he had it but Shea whipped around him and drove over first.”
Hoffman represented the Yukon in cycling last year at the Western Canada Summer Games in Kamloops.
Tanicka Reeves won the youth female in front of fellow Yukoner Ava Irving-Staley.
“It was a huge success,” said Trena. “Shea came first in his category, Melanie came first, Tanicka Reeves came first in female youth.
“Despite the weather being pretty nasty, it was organized well and the people are great, the event is great.”
Darryl was alone in the handcycle division, but a win is a win, said Trena.
“As I say to the kids, if no one else comes and competes against you, so what?” said Trena. “You’re still first.
“And Darryl did a really good job. It’s challenging being on a handcycle like that because all the rain shoots up over you. Unlike on a tall bicycle, where you get some of it, he got lots of it.”
Many of the above cyclists are members of the newly formed U Kon Echelon Bike Club, which was spearheaded by Trena.
“Our mission statement is pretty well to get everyone we can think of out biking with us,” said Trena. “We have some handcyclists, we have some young people, I’ve talked to some seniors too, who want something set up for them that’s at their level.”
The Echelon club is not competing with the well-established VeloNorth Cycling Club of Whitehorse. The two clubs should benefit each other. Echelon riders can race in VeloNorth events for experience, and VeloNorth – and the Contagious Mountain Biking Club, for that matter – can expect more entries into their events.
“You have people like Troy Henry and Bill Curtis and Jillian (Chown) and even myself in the past (in VeloNorth races), and people get kind of intimidated by that and they don’t come out to events,” said Trena. “I think you can have the more serious racing club and the more developmental club.
“When we develop a calendar, we want to do it in conjunction with VeloNorth.”
The Echelon club has also received support from the territory’s most famous cyclist: Zach Bell. Bell, who placed eighth in the men’s omnium event at the London Olympics two weeks ago, has donated plenty of cycling gear and even a bike.
“He has been doing a lot for our club to support us and we were definitely watching him at the Olympics,” said Melanie, who wore one of Bell’s old cycling skins in Juneau. “He gave a bunch of his gear to help us fit in when we got to those type of races, which is awesome.”
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