If you’re driving, slow down. If you’re pedaling, bundle up.
That’s the advice of organizers in advance of the annual Kluane to Chilkat International Bike Relay, the day-long rally that celebrates its 20th running this year.
Temperatures forecast for the race start at Haines Junction, Y.T., included a high of only 50 degrees and a low of 34. Snow and rain showers were predicted early this week in the village, with temperatures below freezing.
Near Haines Summit, elevation 3,492 feet, temperatures can be colder and winds severe.
Longtime racer and longtime relay board member Chip Lende said riders should bring warm gear, high-energy snacks and water.
Drivers on the Haines Highway should expect 1,200 riders and possibly triple that number in support crews and families, plus several cars per team, Lende said.
“Be very careful driving, or better yet, delay or advance a trip rather than travel the highway Saturday. If you must drive, please give bikes the right-of-way and watch for slow-moving support vehicles which pull over frequently,” he said.
Cyclist speeds vary, with top teams riding faster than local drivers might expect, some averaging over 20 mph. “If you are thinking you can pull into a gas station or up the fair road in front of one, please err on the side of caution and wait until the riders pass,” Lende said.
Drivers of race support vehicles also should leave plenty of time for getting through the U.S. border station, he said. “Try to get through the border as early as possible and be sure you have passports.”
With riders arriving by ferry from Juneau and other parts of Southeast, most of the town’s lodging will be booked up for the weekend. A tent city accommodates spillover at the Fort Seward parade grounds, near the barracks building finish line. Dogs in the area must be leashed and police will enforce open-container laws.
The relay is expected to crowd local restaurants and bars. Health food store and coffeehouse co-owner Mike Borcik said the relay is on par with the state fair for sales and Sunday after the race is often the café’s busiest day of the year. “We’ll have massive amounts of coffee available as well as a lot of pre-made menu items.”
Cyclists will be served dinner Saturday on the parade grounds, and there will also be a shuttle to take them to and from the annual fishermen’s king salmon barbecue at the state fairgrounds.
Tomi Scovill has organized the volunteers at the last checkpoint at 19 Mile for 20 years. She said her crew of two dozen wouldn’t miss it. The group includes her family, bank employees, retirees, and local business people.
She said she used to split their eight-hour duty into two shifts, but everyone wanted to stay the entire time. “We have a barbecue up there, and people even bring out of town guests to help. It’s a blast,” Scovill said.
Haines People for Peace will host its annual Bike Race and Father’s Day all-you-can-eat sourdough pancake breakfast with local fixings beginning 7:30 a.m. Sunday at the senior center.
The 150-mile relay includes categories for solo riders, and teams of two, four and eight riders. Winners will arrive at Fort Seward around 2 p.m., with the bulk of the teams rolling in between 5 and 7 p.m.
Race co-founder and cycle tour company owner Thom Ely is riding on a two person team with one of his Skagway guides and expects to finish in eight to nine hours, depending on the weather. “I’m more concerned about having a sore butt,” he said.