This weekend, around 1,300 cyclists will race from the Yukon to Haines in the Kluane Chilkat International Bike Relay. This is the event’s 25th year, and riders from as far as Australia have signed up for the nearly 150-mile race. Weather and wildlife could present some extra challenges.
A ceremonial cannon blast will kick off the race in Haines Junction Saturday, a special addition for the event’s 25th year.
From there, cyclists race in teams or on their own through the pass and down the highway to Haines. There are solo, two, four, and eight person teams.
Race coordinator Mike Kramer says this year, registration filled up almost as soon as it opened.
“This year’s registration filled up in less than 36 hours,” says Kramer. “That compares to about eight days it filled up last year. Then the previous year it filled up in about three weeks. So we’ve gone from three weeks, to eight days, to just over a day and a half, registration being full.”
There are 93 solo riders registered this year. Kramer says that is the most the race has ever had. For safety reasons, team registration is limited to 1,200 riders.
“The main safety concern we have is the number of vehicles on the road,” says Kramer. “And we haven’t figured our any other way to limit that, other than to limit the number of riders.”
Kramer says there are a few other safety concerns this year as well, including the amount of bear activity along the race course.
“So certainly, we give information to all of our riders about bear safety and obviously don’t leave any type of attractant whether it be garbage or food around, just in terms of the preservation of the bears,” says Kramer.
Then, there’s the weather. Kramer says the forecast is looking mixed for race day itself.
“It is looking, at least on the Yukon side, that things will be drying up as we get closer to the weekend,” says Kramer. “We might actually have a dry start in Haines Junction. But I know, the weather forecast I checked last night showed a definitely some possibility of showers in Haines, Alaska.”
He says this week, in the days leading up to the race, there is a possibility of snow at the summit of the Pass.
“That’s something we’ll be watching closely because if there was snow on the road, meaning not just wet snow falling, but if there was snow that was crusting on the road, we might have to actually make some changes on that leg, just because of the types of tires most people are riding on, that could be quite dangerous,” says Kramer.
Participants in this year’s race are coming from all over the country, and the world.
“Vast majority are from the Yukon,” says Kramer. “And then Alaska would be the second largest representation. And then we get into B.C. Then we have some representation from almost every province and territory in Canada. And then certainly from the U.S. I recall California, Pennsylvania, Arizona, Montana. And our furthest away riders, as far as I know and what they declare is Australia.”
Aside from the cannon blast at the start of the race, Kramer says there are a few other things marking the race’s 25th year. All of the riders will get a commemorative water bottle, and there will be gifts for volunteers as well.
After crossing the finish line at the Haines parade grounds, participants are invited to a community fisherman’s barbecue at the fairgrounds.