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CROSSING THE GRASSY TERRAIN – Yukon cyclist Mara Roldan competes during the WCSG Cross Country Mountain Bike race in Swift Current, Sask. on Tuesday. Roldan was the bronze medal winner. Photo by TEAM YUKON/SARAH LEWIS

Roldan wins Yukon’s first cycling medal

The cycling events of the Western Canada Summer Games in Swift Current, Sask. came to a close on Tuesday when the athletes competed in the Cross Country Mountain Bike race at the Highland Coulee Trails.

By John Tonin on August 16, 2019

The cycling events of the Western Canada Summer Games in Swift Current, Sask. came to a close on Tuesday when the athletes competed in the Cross Country Mountain Bike race at the Highland Coulee Trails.

Yukon cyclist Mara Roldan was the bronze medal winner in the race and in doing so she made some history along the way. Roldan became the first female from the territory to win a medal in cycling at a Western Canada Summer Games.

“It is kind of fun to say I made history,” said Roldan who was reached in Quebec where she is travelling with her family. “I think only one guy from the Yukon has medalled in cycling before.”

The mountain bike portion of the cycling events had to be changed due to rain which made the original course like “gumbo”, according to cycling coach Trena Irving.

The original course which was set to be about five-kilometres long but had to be changed to about 900-metres and over grassier terrain.

“The re-routed course still had descents and uphills,” said Irving.

Roldan was appreciative that the organizers were able to get another course ready in time for the race. The first mountain biking event had to be cancelled because of the conditions.

“They completely had to remake the course,” said Roldan. “It was appreciated even though it was very different than our pre-ride.”

Even though it was a completely different course Roldan said she felt good during the competition.

“I was amazed by how good I felt,” said Roldan. “I was in second for a while and got passed but I held onto third.

“When I crossed the finish line I didn’t know I came third. It was unexpected and I was so in the moment.”

Roldan, 15, was one of the young riders competing as athletes could be as old as 19.

“I was one of the younger riders and it was such a strong field,” said Roldan. “Top 10 would have been amazing.”

Irving wasn’t as surprised when she learned that Roldan medalled.

“I thought she had a chance,” said Irving. “She is a strong rider and a strong athlete. It’s a big success for sure. Definitely thought she had a chance to medal. The mountain bike community is stoked.”

In the first phase of the Games, the Yukon brought in five medals. Roldan said it was very special to add a bronze to the medal pool and it was even more special because all the medal winners in phase one were girls.

Roldan said she enjoyed the whole atmosphere of the Games and tried to watch as many events as possible in her downtime. Her friend Julianne Girouard won two medals in kayaking.

“We both supported each other,” said Roldan.

Roldan believes the Games were a good stepping stone forward in her cycling career.

“Biking is my biggest passion,” she said. “My dream is to see how far I can take this.”

The cycling team had six athletes, all female, competing in Swift Current over three events.

“I was very proud to bring a full team to Westerns,” said Irving. “We had a larger team than Manitoba and we have a smaller population.”

The cyclists had to compete in both road racing and mountain biking which Irving said will be good for their development.

“Everyone was forced to take both disciplines seriously,” said Irving. “Road racing gives mountain bikers more endurance and less chance of crashing. Mountain biking is more technical and included intervals. Our team was evenly divided between road cyclists and mountain bikers.

“Each race had something different that they could all shine with,” said Irving. “It was great to have six athletes there to race and do their best.”

Irving noted three circumstances that will dictate the outcome of a race.

“Were they able to perform to the best of their ability, were there crashes and were there mechanical issues,” said Irving.

Ava Irving experienced a flat tire during the mountain bike race but was able to bounce back after the set-back. She got her flat right after the station where she could have had it fixed.

“You can’t go backward so she had to ride a kilometre before she could get a tire change,” said Irving. “In the stress of the moment the tire came off again but she smiled when it happened. Other coaches said she handled it really well.”

Mathilde Roldan, 13, was one of the youngest riders competing. She came in 21st in the road race but Irving said she was strong and sprinted across the finish line after going 80-kilometres.

“It was something I told the athletes,” said Irving. “I want to see you sprint across the finish line, show you have the fire in you.”

Irving said there is a push to hold the next WCSG in Whitehorse if not they “die” in Swift Current.

She is excited at the prospects at having the Games in Whitehorse, one reason being the whole cycling team has another WCSG in them based on their age.

Throughout the Games Irving said it was a big success for all the riders and that the bronze was just the “icing on the cake”.

Comments (2)

Up 1 Down 0

jc on Aug 25, 2019 at 6:18 pm

I think it was actually Preston Blackie...I know he medalled for the Yukon in Cycling 20 years ago...or so

Up 1 Down 0

HBuff on Aug 20, 2019 at 12:12 pm

That 'one guy' she referred to would be none other than Sean Sheardown....well done Mara! You are in good company.

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