The 23rd annual Kluane Chilkat International Bike Relay will speed from Haines Junction to Haines this Saturday with about 1,300 participants.
Bike race Board Member Chip Lende estimates he has biked in the 148-mile race about 20 times, almost every year it’s happened.
“The route starts out at Haines Junction, real steep, and then it goes along the lake there, Dezdeash Lake, kinda rolling, then it hits the steeper, longer hills of Million Dollar Falls and Pringle Tower, then it hits the alpine, which is kind of rolling but subject to colder weather, and then you come down into Haines which is very pretty.”
Lende is on a four-person team with family members. There are about 100 other four-person groups signed up. There are 83 eight-person teams, 45 two-person teams and 92 soloists. Lende says each year, the number of solo competitors goes up.
“Last year had 63 soloists, this year its 92, and it just means it’s attracting more avid cyclists, or not competitive but just serious cyclists that are willing to do that.”
Race organizers cap the number of competitors around 1,200 or 1,300 because of limited space on the road and in Haines.
One potential challenge this year is the Department of Transportation chip-sealing road construction happening along the Haines Highway. That’s between about Mile 25 and the border.
“And I’ve talked to DOT recently and they’ve assured us that they’re going to sweep it Saturday morning, and as long as bikers stay in that six-foot lane, they shouldn’t have any problems.”
In terms of safety, Lende says his biggest concern is cars. There will be support vehicles on the road with hundreds of cyclists. He recommends not driving on the highway if you don’t have to.
Last year, Lende was injured in a collision while competing in the race. But he says he’s not worried about getting back into the pack.
“I told my wife we’re just doing it as a recreational team, as much as Lendes can recreate, so we’ll see.”
Racers start at 8:20 a.m. Yukon Time Saturday morning from Haines Junction. The fastest cyclists will make it to the finish line at the parade grounds in Haines around 2 or 3 p.m. Alaska Time, with the bulk of the pack arriving around 5 p.m.
If you count cyclists and support teams, an estimated 2,000 visitors will be in town.