Whitehorse Daily Star

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Photo by Vince Fedoroff

GETTING STARTED – Cyclists in the 2019 Southern Lakes Yukon GranFondo begin the 170-kilometre loop leaving from and ending at the Marsh Lake Community Centre on Saturday.

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Photo by Vince Fedoroff

THE RACE WINNER – William Coleman makes his way along the 170-kilometre course heading back toward Marsh Lake. Coleman was six minutes off the course record of four hours, 42 minutes.

Cyclists ride around the Southern Lakes

On Saturday, cyclists mounted their bikes at the Marsh Lake Community Centre to race in the 12th annual Southern Lakes Yukon GranFondo.

By John Tonin on June 6, 2019

On Saturday, cyclists mounted their bikes at the Marsh Lake Community Centre to race in the 12th annual Southern Lakes Yukon GranFondo.

The GranFondo is a 170-kilometre loop and this year began and finished at Marsh Lake. The start of the race changes yearly. The cyclists went clockwise around the loop after leaving the start line. They passed Tagish, the Carcross Desert, Spirit Lake Wilderness Resort and Mount Lorne before reaching the finish line.

The weather wasn't in full cooperation on Saturday as the rain fell, and for sections of the ride, it was quite windy.

"(The race) was a great success," said GranFondo founder Peter Heebink. "There were not as many people as usual because of the rain."

The race had 54 cyclists competing in solo, duos, 3-5 person teams and youth categories.

For the 12 annual race, Heebink said, the organizers decided to loosen up the rules.

"(We did it) so we didn't have timing difficulties," said Heebink. "The teams could switch riders as many times as they wanted. People seemed to like the flexibility."

The Southern Lakes Yukon GranFondo falls two weeks before the Kluane Chilkat International Bike Relay from Haines Junction to Haines, Alaska.

The Kluane Chilkat is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year.

The race has a total distance of 238.3 kilometres and covers "some of the most spectacular country anywhere in the world with mountain valleys, alpine passes and ocean views. The terrain is expansive, allowing riders to ride and experience flats, steep descents and long climbs," says their website.

Heebink said the GranFondo attracts a lot of riders in the Kluane Chilkat, as it is good practice beforehand.

"A lot of riders and a lot of solo riders are entered in the Kluane Chilkat," said Heebink. "For them, it is kind of a training ride, as well as the teams. That was the idea about having the GranFondo before."

As the GranFondo continues, Heebink said, the race is seeing more and more solo cyclists.

"In the beginning, it was unheard of to ride solo but that isn't the case anymore," said Heebink. "It can be hard as a solo rider, especially when it is cold and wet because there is no break.

"The teams could take a break and switch as many times as they wanted and spend some time in a warm car."

At the finish line, Heebink, said most people came in happy and in good spirits.

"All seemed pretty happy, and only a couple seemed grumpy," said Heebink. "Most had a real positive outlook in spite of being wet and hypothermic."

Heebinks was not able to race this year as he took on more of an organizational role along with co-organizer Dana Eisinger. Although he wasn't able to compete, he did say he was able to get out on the course before the racers.

"I rode a section between Marsh Lake and Tagish. That section is beautiful. There was some chip seal on some sections but there was no construction to deal with.

"It is a great ride around there, and it is very picturesque."

The 170-kilometre course record was set in 2013 by two riders who completed the loop in four hours, 42 minutes.

Despite the sometimes harsh weather conditions, William Coleman, from Juneau, Alaska, racing under the name "Smash and Bash", finished the race in four hours, 48 minutes, and 13 seconds. That was six minutes off the best time.

At the Spirit Lake split, Coleman and the second place solo men finisher, Stephen Ball, were neck-and-neck. Coleman reached the halfway point in two hours, 31 minutes, and 36 seconds only two seconds ahead of Ball.

Coleman was able to create some sizeable distance between Ball in the back-half of the race, finishing 12 minutes ahead.

Ball arrived back at Marsh Lake in five hours, 17 seconds. The third fastest solo men's rider was Michael Marceau, who completed the 170 kilometre loop in five hours, seven minutes, and 22 seconds.

Jenn Baardseth was the faster solo women's cyclist. Her final time was six hours, 20 minutes, and 13 seconds. Gemma Sleik, team name "rock it like a rocket" was two seconds behind Baardseth.

The two competitors were close for the duration of the race. At the Spirit Lake split, there were only three seconds separating the two.

Eleven cyclists started the race at Marsh Lake, but only six completed the entire loop.

The duo team "Mush" was the only team to finish in their category. They reached the end in five hours, six minutes and one second.

The 3-5 person team class was taken by the "Celery Generals" featuring Caleb Light, Erin Light and Kate Durand. The team returned to Marsh Lake in five hours, 56 minutes and 51 seconds.

The "Celery Generals" finished well ahead of the second and third place finishers. Team "Setterington" took six hours, 15 minutes and 46 seconds to complete to the course. "We'll Figure It Out at the Finish Line" were third coming in 10 minutes behind the "Setterington".

The youth category featured two teams. "Two bros pumping iron" made up of Micah and Caius Taggart-Cox reached the Spirit Lake split in three hours, five minutes. The brothers were able to shave time off their total time in the second half of the race for a total time of five hours, 54 minutes and 30 seconds.

The second youth team to finish was the "U Kon Echelon" cyclists featuring Tori Vollmer, Alex Labarge, Johna Irving-Staley, Taiga Buurman and J. McCann. The team also had a strong second leg of the course with a total time of seven hours, 20 minutes and 56 seconds.

Their time at the split was four hours, seven minutes and 15 seconds.

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