The Yukon summer is event-driven.
Because of this, once they step off the pedals after finishing their leg of the Kluane Chilkat International Bike Relay many riders put their road bikes aside in favour of a mountain bike or a pair of running shoes as they gear up for road relays, trail marathons, and the crowning of the “King of the Canyon”.
The organizers of the Southern Lakes Bike Loppett hope to change that trend.
The five-leg bike relay that sees teams of riders cover the 173 km between Tagish, Mount Lorne, Carcross, Marsh Lake and Golden Horn is celebrating its fifth anniversary.
“It’s actually our sixth race, though,” laughs Simi Morrison, the race coordinator. “We called the first year of the race ‘year zero’ as it was a huge experiment and we really didn’t know what would happen. Six years later we’re still going strong.”
From its humble beginnings the race has grown to see a record-breaking 100 riders take part last year on teams of two, three to five, and solo riders.
“We always get a group of solo riders who did the Kluane Chilkat as solo riders,” explains Morrison. “After riding the 238 km over the passes into Alaska our race is a piece of cake for them.”
The race attracts a wide range of abilities.
“We get families and team of friends and colleagues, along with a set of very competitive and serious riders,” says Morrison.
And the organizers try to celebrate that diversity as much as possible.
“We always give out a range of awards at our post-race shindig,” Morrison explains.
“The top team receives yellow shirts (a nod to the yellow leader’s jerseys from the Tour de France), while the last team across the line wins the ‘Crooked Wheel’ award.”
The Crooked Wheel award is a race tradition. Organizers scour the local dumps for a beat-up and battered bike wheel that is then decorated by the host community centre.
“One year the Crooked Wheel was won by a team that broke the records for most flat tires during the race—five in total—so the prize was actually very appropriate,” laughs Morrison.
“I’m always impressed with how proud people are to be given the wheel. I’ve even seen a previous year’s wheel hanging in one of the labs in the Whitehorse hospital.”
Unfortunately the road conditions on the race course do sometimes contribute to those flat tires.
“We don’t have the difficult and gruelling terrain that the Kluane Chilkat has,” says Morrison, “but what we do have is chip seal—several sections of it. It is a challenge to ride over. We sometimes joke that we should re-name the race to ‘the Chip Seal Challenge’.”
Morrison adds that the other race challenge is the wind.
“The legs that travel past both Marsh Lake and Bennett Lake can be very difficult due to the winds. In fact, often for the riders coming into Carcross, the closer they get the more of a challenge the riding becomes due to the wind off the lake.”
The start (and end) of the race rotates yearly to a different one of the five host communities. This year Golden Horn, the fifth and final community to host the event (Marsh Lake hosted events zero and one), will entertain participants with the event’s traditional meal (included in the registration costs) and beer garden.
“It’s been an interesting challenge setting up Golden Horn to host the race,” Morrison says.
“Unlike the other four communities, they don’t have a community centre, which makes it more of a challenge to organize. It’s coming together nicely, however.”
This year’s race takes place on July 28. Registration deadline is July 25. Registration forms can be found at and dropped off to Icycle Sports and Cadence Cycle.
If you missed out on the sold-out Kluane Chilkat relay you don’t want to miss this race as well. And if you are one of the lucky ones who had a space in the big race, well then you’re already all trained up for its “little sister” so you have absolutely no excuse.
More information can be found at the Mount Lorne Community Centre website: http://www.mountlorne.yk.net.
Amber Church is a painter, writer and sports enthusiast. You can reach her at [email protected].