Chilkat Valley News - Serving Haines and Klukwan, Alaska since 1966

Bikers gear up for race

 

June 14, 2018 | View PDF



Tires, gears, and costumes are getting final touches for the 25th anniversary of the annual Kluane Chilkat International Bike Relay on Saturday.

The 148.1-mile, eight-leg race runs from Haines Junction in Yukon to the Parade Grounds at Fort Seward in Haines. Approximately 1,220 riders on teams of eight, four, two and one, are expected to participate this year. They’re supported by more than 200 volunteers, some of whom are already at work preparing welcome packets.

The relay is known for its good humor. The majority of participants race recreationally instead of competitively, despite a difficult elevation variance over the course ranging from 3500 feet to 80 feet.

“It’s one of the most fun races I’ve been a part of,” said Lizi Wirak, who will be racing this year with her sister Tracy. Their team name is “The Sister Sh*t Shows,” in keeping with a long tradition of zany names. Last year featured gems such as “Lactate Intolerant,” “What Am I Doing,” “We Thought This Was a Wine Tour,” and “shouldhavetrainedmore.”

Wirak said she started training toward the end of March, going out for one long ride every weekend and shorter rides every Wednesday.

“We’re not in it to win it,” she said. “But we’re in it to do the best we can. We’re trying not to come in last.”

Race coordinator Mike Kramer said he isn’t sure of the origins of the goofy side of the race. Kramer has been running the event for more than a decade, and he said the costumes and fun have been a part of the relay as long as he has. “Maybe people up here just like to wear costumes,” he said.

This year is being billed as the 25th anniversary of the race again, after last year’s 25th anniversary race was cancelled because of bad weather.

“We woke up under several inches of snow,” Wirak said, describing the race morning last year, “I was in my tent putting on my bike shorts thinking, ‘Oh my god, are we going to bike in this?’”

The decision to cancel last year was hard but quick to make, Kramer said, given the severe conditions including snow, slush, and black ice. Forecasts are much more optimistic this year. Predictions for Haines Junction include temperatures in the 60s and a 10 percent chance of precipitation.

Four unicyclists completed the course last year despite the cancellation and though Kramer hasn’t heard of any unicyclists this year, he noted that a tandem husband-and-wife team is registered. He believes they might be the first solo tandem team to ever compete. According to the results posted on the race website, only two tandem teams ever competed, the Doublettes de Burnaby with four people and two bikes in 2005, and the Resurrection Riders with a 16-person team, one tandem per leg, in 1999.

To commemorate the 25th anniversary, cannon blasts are once again planned for the beginning of each leg of the race. “There are no people or balls in the cannons,” Kramer said. “So ear protection should not be necessary.”

Road construction on the Haines Highway between Miles 8 and 10 is likely to impede leg 8 of the race this year. The current plan is to advise cyclists use wide tires for that section or be shuttled by their support vehicles. Official decision regarding the construction will be released on the race Facebook page and webpage at kcibr.org by Friday morning.

Top places will be preliminarily awarded as the race finishes after 2 p.m., as well as a last place red lantern after the race closes at 9 p.m. The finish line is walking distance from the Haines fishermen’s community barbecue at the fairground. All are welcome to the barbecue; it runs from 4-9pm.

 
 

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