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

Middle school bike relay team surpasses expectations


June 20, 2019

Leo Wald, Arik Miller, Hayden Jiminez and Dalton Henry

When four Haines middle school boys took on the name "Slow and Wobbly" to compete in the Kluane Chilkat International Bike Race last weekend, they thought they would be just that.

Arik Miller, 14, Leo Wald, 13, Hayden Jimenez, 12, and Dalton Henry, 12, began the 148-mile race from Haines Junction to downtown Haines assuming they wouldn't finish within the allotted time period.

Then, they placed 11th in their bracket and 36th out of 101 four-person teams in a total time of 9 hours and 53 minutes.

"We went from thinking we weren't going to make the 12-hour time limit to being like, 'Woah, where's Leo?,'" Jimenez said.

Wald, who kicked off the first two legs of the race, was up so far ahead, the boys' support vehicle couldn't find him. The team thought maybe their friend had fallen over, or strong winds pushed him back.

"Then, we got to this huge draft line at leg two, and he was up front with the best of the best," Jimenez said. Wald was drafting-or cycling in a line and taking turns riding up front- with a group of mostly "really fast" men in the front of the pack.

As novices of the race, the boys trained together for about two months, cycling between 10 and 40 miles every few days, and practicing draft lines after school.

Long-time competitor Heather Lende, who with her husband Chip, placed first in mixed two-person teams, said that there have been young teams in the past, but usually spread over eight-person teams.

"I was impressed they did a four person, typically kids do eight person teams," Heather Lende said. "There's a big difference between riding two legs versus one."

While the race doesn't keep data on cyclists age, the boys appeared to be one of the youngest teams racing this year.

They used their light weight to their advantage, passing competitors on the uphill climbs.

"The hills are where we shined," Miller said. "Passing people is so satisfying, especially when you're so young. You expect them to be way better than you."

Competitors Liam Cassidy and Dennis Durr cheered the boys on from their support vehicle while their own team trailed behind.

"Arik began his leg standing up on the bike and howling," Cassidy said.

The boys kept their enthusiasm throughout, and Henry finished the final two legs in the rain, mud coating his face.

"We watched him ride with a pack of adults through the muddy construction section," Durr said. "His dad tried to hand him a towel to wipe his face off and he refused. I'd say he didn't want anything slowing him down."

Slow and Wobbly hopes to compete in the race again next year. In the meantime – they plan to bike.

"I think if we had trained harder and went all out, we could have done better than eleventh," Miller said, wearing his race shirt, bike helmet and red riding gloves days after the competition.

"I agree," Wald said. "I think we could have gone harder."

The race winner for the second year in a row was Matthias Purdon from Whitehorse, who finished in 7:25:34. Ten seconds behind him was Whitehorse rider David Gonda, tailed another ten seconds by Fairbanks' Tyson Flaharty.

Along with the Lendes, returning competitors and sisters Tracy and Lizi Wirak placed in their category. The pair came in third for two person women's teams.

The weather this year was better than last, race organizers said, though riders still fought strong winds on legs two through five, and some were met with rain in Haines.


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