Wind, rain and snow for Tour de Haines Junction
U Kon Echelon Bike Club hosted its annual Tour de Haines Junction on May 15 and 16 in and around Haines Junction.
Things got underway the morning of the 15th with a time trial, leaving from the junction of the Haines Highway and the Alaska Highway for 10 kilometres out to near Bear Creek Lodge before doubling back to finish at the start line for a 20-km race.
That afternoon, riders raced a 10-km hill climb beginning at the turnaround point of the time trial and heading towards Destruction Bay.
Weather on day one started off less than ideal, with rain, sleet and snow all making brief appearances that morning before settling into overcast and cool conditions for the time trial. Temperatures rose and the sun came out however, for the hill climb, leaving riders with only the wind to compensate for.
For the 50-km road race on May 16, the weather was even more extreme. Beginning at the Kathleen Lake Lookout and racing to the Rock Glacier Trail and back, riders were treated to gusting winds and snow, followed by rain, some dry periods, and more rain – all in the span of 25 km of road and roughly two hours of time.
The Tour was largely similar to previous years, but this year’s hill climb skipped the typical course that mirrors one of the most difficult legs on the Kluane Chilkat International Bike Relay in favour of a new route on the other side of Haines Junction headed towards Beaver Creek.
Coach Trena Irving explained it wasn’t a stretch of highway anyone in the club was particularly familiar with.
“I’ve only ridden that once or twice because my brother-in-law lives out there,” Irving said after the Tour. “I thought it was a little bit steeper. … I’m not saying it was easy – it’s hard – but I think it’s when you’re driving down in a vehicle that you realize how steep it is.”
Ava Irving-Staley, both an athlete and a coach with the club, said the change of course was a positive.
“I think it’s a good way to change it up a bit,” Irving-Staley said. “I find that (the usual hill climb) is normally used quite a bit, like for the KCIBR, so it gets kind of old every time. But I think it’s good to have some new pavement and new places.”
This year’s Tour included riders in seven categories, ranging from U11 boys novice right through to expert men.
The two largest categories were U15 boys and U17 boys with three riders in each category.
It was the U19 girls, though, with the closest results as Irving-Staley was less than a minute faster than Veronica Porter after three hours of racing over two days.
“The weather was definitely challenging. It definitely tested our mental capacity,” Irving-Staley said after the road race. “Since it’s the last race of the weekend, it’s a bit rough. Just because we did two races yesterday, so we’re a bit fatigued from that. I’ve done this race a lot over the years and this is probably the hardest year.”
It was also the first time she can recall racing it with snow falling down.
Snow ruining bike races isn’t unheard of for that area however – the KCIBR was cancelled in 2017 because of winter weather and snow on the road.
For Irving-Staley, the Tour was also a chance to compete again as she and her teammates prepare for the upcoming 2022 Canada Summer Games.
COVID-19 deprived the team of any Outside competitions last season and significantly truncated the local schedule as well.
“I’d say definitely motivation is hard,” Irving-Staley said about training when competitions keep getting delayed and cancelled. “I think last season was probably the worst. This season I’m kind of getting some more motivation back; I’m more actually trying to train. But no, definitely last year (I) was going through a rough patch, was not motivated, and yeah, it’s hard when everything is getting cancelled.”
“Why am I even training with no events? But you’ve got to keep on going. Everybody else down south is also training, so you can’t just take a break because you don’t want to,” she said.
Irving-Staley is balancing her own training with her work as a coach for some of the club’s other riders, and she said sometimes that coaching can also serve as training for herself.
“I haven’t started my training plan yet, but once I get started on that I’ll normally be going for a ride … and I’ll be working on something, then I’ll be coaching for another hour or hour and a half. So that’s what my summer is looking like – it’s going to be a lot of either training or coaching,” Irving-Staley said. “And I mean, coaching can sometimes count towards training because I’m coaching these 14-year-old boys who are faster than me.”
She said that coaching has also changed how she approaches the sport.
“We’re taking a lot of courses right now and I’ve just learned so much throughout the courses,” she said. “I’m realizing that I have all this knowledge because I’ve been doing this since I was seven … but now I’m like, how do I share this without oversimplifying it, but also making sure it’s not too complex, keeping it short and hoping they can get it too. It’s a good review too, because you’re learning and you’re remembering everything you learned too.”
Irving-Staley is also planning to try to compete in mountain biking at the Canada Games, though her focus remains on the road.
“I don’t have as much experience as some kids do, definitely with the technical bits,” Irving-Staley said on mountain biking.
And with the Yukon fielding a team likely smaller than most other jurisdictions, Irving-Staley said the time trial is the road race she’s most looking forward to.
“We’re going to be going up against a lot of provinces and people who are older than us,” she said. “So I think the one event that we’re probably going to be really trying to do well in is time trials. … It’s more so about the actual strength of the athlete, not so much the strength of the team.”
More immediately though, Irving-Staley will be competing in the Tour de Skagway on May 22 and 23 hosted by U Kon Echelon. While the name is the same as years past, this year’s races will be taking place entirely in Canada.
Things start with a time trial on May 22, followed by a unique hill climb format that afternoon. Riders will be racing up a one-km course to the summit three times, with the times added together to determine final race times.
On May 23, things conclude with a road race from just past Canada customs to the summit and back.
The race routes have been approved by the Canadian government, and will be adjusted if necessary.
For more information on the Tour de Skagway or any of the territory’s bike races, visit the Cycling Association of Yukon website.
Time trial results
|U11 boys novice||5 km||1||Elijah Jenner||26:00|
|U15 boys||20 km||1||Alex LeBarge||40:23|
|U15 boys||20 km||2||John Irving-Staley||42:11|
|U15 boys||20 km||3||Taiga Buurman||44:06|
|U17 boys||20 km||1||James McCann||38:08|
|U17 boys||20 km||2||Mack Jenner||39:52|
|U17 boys||20 km||3||Doon McDowell||40:26|
|U17 girls||20 km||1||Tori Vollmer||43:05|
|U19 girls||20 km||1||Ava Irving-Staley||38:37|
|U19 girls||20 km||2||Veronica Porter||39:36|
|Master women||20 km||1||Trena Irving||41:42|
|Expert men||20 km||1||David Jackson||30:14|
|Expert men||20 km||2||Shea Hoffman||35:06|
Hill climb results
|U11 boys novice||7 km||1||Elijah Jenner||40:00|
|U15 boys||10 km||1||Alex LeBarge||33:24|
|U15 boys||10 km||2||Taiga Buurman||36:31|
|U15 boys||10 km||3||Johna Irving-Staley||40:00|
|U17 boys||10 km||1||James McCann||28:04|
|U17 boys||10 km||2||Mack Jenner||33:59|
|U17 boys||10 km||3||Doon McDowell||34:25|
|U17 girls||10 km||1||Tori Vollmer||34:33|
|U19 girls||10 km||1||Veronica Porter||33:58|
|U19 girls||10 km||2||Ava Irving-Staley||33:59|
|Master women||10 km||1||Trena Irving||40:14|
|Expert men||10 km||1||David Jackson||24:47|
|Expert men||10 km||2||Shea Hoffman||27:05|
Road race results
|U11 boys novice||7 km||1||Elijah Jenner||43:00|
|U15 boys||50 km||1||Alex LeBarge||1:41:52|
|U15 boys||50 km||2||Taiga Buurman||1:47:17|
|U15 boys||50 km||3||Johna Irving-Staley||1:57:48|
|U17 boys||50 km||1||James McCann||1:38:00|
|U17 boys||50 km||2||Doon McDowell||1:42:20|
|U17 boys||50 km||3||Mack Jenner||1:46:57|
|U19 girls||50 km||1||Veronica Porter||1:46:55|
|U19 girls||50 km||2||Ava Irving-Staley||1:46:59|
|Master women||50 km||1||Trena Irving||1:58:58|
|Expert men||50 km||1||David Jackson||1:30:57|
General classification results
|U11 boys novice||1||Elijah Jenner||1:49:00|
|U15 boys||1||Alex LeBarge||2:55:39|
|U15 boys||2||Taiga Buurman||3:07:54|
|U15 boys||3||Johna Irving-Staley||3:19:59|
|U17 boys||1||James McCann||2:44:12|
|U17 boys||2||Doon McDowell||2:57:11|
|U17 boys||3||Mack Jenner||2:59:08|
|U19 girls||1||Ava Irving-Staley||2:59:35|
|U19 girls||2||Veronica Porter||3:00:29|
|Master women||1||Trena Irving||3:20:54|
|Expert men||1||David Jackson||2:25:58|