Skagway women’s relay team pleasantly surprised with result of bike race
By KATIE EMMETS
On Saturday, Lara Labesky rode her bicycle in the 22nd annual Kluane Chilkat International Bike Relay — a race she’s participated in for 12 years.
Labesky captained Totally Tubular, one of the six Skagway teams that consisted of eight athletic Skagway women. Each team member rode one of the eight legs that make up the 141-mile race beginning in Haines Junction, Yukon Territory and ending in downtown Haines.
The day began unusually with a strong headwind at the starting line. Most years, Labesky said, cyclists won’t encounter a headwind until the last two legs, however, this year’s south wind stayed strong, pushing against participants throughout the entirety of the race and slowing times down significantly. Also making an appearance along the way were a couple rainsqualls and cold temperatures.
“Those conditions definitely made for a difficult race,” she said. “You usually don’t have that headwind for the entire time. It just kind of threw people off.”
Labesky said she thinks the wind added about two-and-a-half hours to the finishing times of teams with eight members, but probably added significantly less time to those riding solo. Participating in the race were solo riders, teams of two, teams of four and teams of eight.
Totally Tubular noticed the wind’s effect right away, and while team members rode well, their times were markedly slower than in past years.
It took team Totally Tubular about 10.5 hours to complete the race, which is two hours more than usual.
“We flew out of Haines at 7:30 p.m., and we could see a lot of teams on the road,” Labesky said. “That’s pretty unusual for the race and kind of gave an idea of what the conditions were like.”
Back in Skagway, around 9 p.m., she received a text from teammate Rachel Ford that pleasantly surprised her.
“Um . . . we won women’s eight,” Ford wrote.
“I got the text and I just started laughing,” she said. “I definitely didn’t expect that.”
Labesky said her team didn’t think they were anywhere near competitive because of the slow leg times, so instead of focusing on winning, team members rode their bikes, danced in the car while cheering on teammates and ate candy.
“It’s almost better we didn’t know because we were just riding for the fun of it,” she said.
Labesky went on to receive fourth place over all for her leg completion time and first out of all women participants.
Ford, who rode in the bike relay for the first time, got 7th overall and 2nd in women’s category.
Katherine Nelson, who passed 52 people on leg two, received 14th overall and 4th in the women’s category.
“That’s pretty impressive considering nobody did much in the training category,” Labesky said of the standings.
Though Totally Tubular team members stayed active throughout the winter and spring by doing other physical activities like cross-country skiing, mountain biking, running and teaching classes at the gym, no one really trained on road bikes.
The winning women’s eight-person team was made up of Michelle Greenstreet, Katherine Nelson, Teresa Wilson, Cindy O’Daniel, Nicki Bunting, Knikki Cinocco, Lara Labesky and Rachel Ford.
Another team with Skagway riders, Sockeye Cycle, won the mixed 8 category in 9:21:22. It was the team’s third top finish, having also won that category in 2007 and 2011, said Thom Ely of Sockeye.
Other teams participating in the race were a Skagway men’s four-person team; a dual team; and two solo riders: Spencer Morgan and John Doland.
But even with six Skagway teams, there was one trenchantly absent presence at the bike relay.
Team Soft and Supple did not grace the pavement this year, and Labesky said it was noticeable.
“It was weird because there really weren’t many Skagway people this year,” she said. “I didn’t see anyone I knew the whole time. You usually see Soft and Supple all day long. It’s fun being able to cheer on your friends while everyone rides.”
Spencer Morgan, who set out to ride all 141.1 miles by himself, crashed in the final stretches when he turned his head to see what was behind him. Though he had no major injuries, he was unable to finish the race.
See complete standings and results at www.kcibr.org
Photos courtesy of Jed Greenstreet