Haines locals made a comeback in the 47th Alcan 200 snowmachine road race Saturday. Twenty-four riders competed in the run from the Haines border to Dezadeash and back. Half of them were Haines residents, which organizers say is the highest local participation in about 10 years. First and second place overall went to two local snowmachiners – Chris Brooks and Jack Smith Jr.
“It’s a rush, it’s total speed from one end to the other,” said Haines resident Sean McLaughlin as he waited with his Yamaha sled at the starting line. “This’ll be my first time racing in probably 10 years. It’s a father-son thing now, I used to do it, now my son’s old enough to do it, so it’s a father son project.”
It’s also a family affair for Nicole Holm and her father Shane Horton.
“I’ve never raced at all. I’m usually on the volunteer crew,” said Holm. “There’s always been the guys pushing to get more women involved. And I told them at Calcutta last year they needed to get their wives and girlfriends [involved] and they said ‘yeah, starting with you.’ So I did.”
“How do I feel about her racing? ‘Bout time,” said Horton. It’s his first time snowmachine racing as well.
Holm, Horton, and the McLaughlins are four of a dozen locals who competed this year. Race organizer Kathi Lapp with the Chilkat Snowburners says that’s the most locals in a long time.
“Yeah it’s very exciting, it’s nice to see people getting involved again,” Lapp said. “Most of the time it was all out of town [riders], we had a few years there were no locals racing so it’s really nice.”
Lapp thinks one reason more locals are participating is because they’re realizing smaller snowmachines can hold their own against bigger ones. That makes it more affordable to compete. And there’s another incentive: the Ugly’s of Haines is paying $200 toward every local resident’s $350 entry fee.
“Over the years, we’re trying to keep the race going, and when there’s only one local in the race, embarrassing’s not the right word, but we wanted more participation of locals,” said Ugly’s President Gary Jacobson. “It’s our race, let’s get more locals in it.”
Jacobson says a dozen is more than the Ugly’s anticipated, but they’ll find a way to pay for it.
On the flipside, there were a few less out-of-towners competing this year. Fairbanks resident Dan Dickerson was one of the dozen who did come back. This is his fifth Alcan race. Here’s his advice for the newcomers:
“You want to finish first, but first you want to finish, so work on the finish part.”
After the morning race, riders had a chance to rest before the evening banquet where organizers announce the results. The strong local participation showed in the rankings. Haines resident Chris Brooks won first place overall, with a total elapsed time of 1:23:14 and a speed of 111 miles per hour. Jack Smith Jr. came in second, and Fairbanks resident George Juhlin was third.
“It wasn’t the way I wanted to win,” Brooks said after receiving his trophy. “Jack [Smith Jr.] had some problems, he led the whole way until the last gas stop on the way back, then he ran into some mechanical problems and had to slow down. But just being able to participate and have a good time is a lot of fun.”
Brooks says the road conditions were about average this year, not great but not terrible. He says it was fun to see more familiar faces competing. A dozen locals is the most he’s seen in the nine years he’s ridden the Alcan. He says the best part of the race…
“Being able to compete against Jack. That guy really knows his stuff, he’s a pretty savvy racer. To get to battle against him there, towards the end, even though it turned out he had mechanical problems, it was really special to race against a guy that good.”
Detailed race results can be seen on the Alcan 200 Facebook page.