The Kluane Chilkat International Bike Relay was on June 16. PHOTO BY CHUCK TOBIN/WHITEHORSE STAR
By DAN FOX
Normally you don’t get to be 25 twice, but thanks to a canceled race in 2017, the Kluane Chilkat International Bike Relay got a second shot at holding its 25th anniversary on June 16. Unexpected snowfall shut down the bike relay last year, and while there wasn’t any fresh powder on the ground during this year’s race, heavy winds did make the ride strenuous for participants.
“And it was a headwind, unfortunately, not a tailwind,” said Race Coordinator Mike Kramer. “I would say it started out windy, and got windier as riders went.”
The relay had 1,230 participants, spread throughout teams of various sizes from a single person to eight cyclists.
Spencer Morgan and JT Thomas raced as a duo this year; both Skagwegians said the winds made the race a grueling one.
At leg four of the race, Morgan said he’d heard the winds had “tipped over the porta potties.”
Morgan and Thomas, who placed 16th this year with a final time of 9:48:06, have raced in the relay before on a mix of different team sizes, from eight-person groups to solo attempts at the competition.
The eight-person Skagway team Soft N Supple, which included Mike Felber, Tiffanie Ames, Paul Myers Tyson Ames, Mike Korsmo, Rod Fairbanks, Heidi Sutter and Andy Miles placed 136th this year, with a time of 12:02:18.
The first-place winner of the relay, a solo rider from Whitehorse named Matthias Purdon, completed the race with a time of 8:17:09. Close behind him was the Whitehorse duo Ian Parker and Joel Macht (whose team name was “I shaved my legs for this?!”). They finished just seconds behind Purdon, with a final time of 8:17:15. Third place was right on their heels, with solo rider David Gonda finishing in 8:17:23.
Despite the uncooperative weather, Kramer said the race was still a success. A lack of major accidents is one of the “measuring sticks” for judging a well-executed bike relay, and there were only a few minor incidents, with no major crashes.
“As far as I know we did not have any of that, and so that’s a huge success marker for us,” Kramer said.
The bike relay pulls in its share of hardcore and recreational riders, as well as a large number of volunteers who help facilitate the event.
“Approximately 200 volunteers help us pull it off on the actual event day, there’s volunteers helping prior to the event with preparations,” Kramer said.