Shifting Gears

The Kluane Chilkat International Bike Relay is about to check-off its 22nd year, and organizers are making sure the race adapts to changing times.

Mike Kramer, a race organizer, explains:

“We are constantly trying to improve the environmental sustainability and safety of the race, and in order to do so, we are constantly looking at new ways to make things run more smoothly.”

This is especially important this year because more teams than ever will cycle through the mountains between Haines Junction and Haines, Alaska. 

“We have over 320 teams registered this year, up from last year’s total of about 275,” says Kramer. “We had to cut registration off at 1200 participants, although we continue to let solo riders register.”

Kramer says teams are forming differently this year:

“Typically our largest group of teams register as a team of eight, with a smaller group signing up to ride as a four, and fewer still as a duo, or as a solo rider,” says Kramer. “This year we saw a huge spike in the number of teams registering as a four, which has led to a bit of a domino effect with the two other longer distance categories as well.”

Additionally, a record breaking 51 individuals have already signed up to take on the course solo, a number that may rise by race day.

Organizers made changes at the start line to account for the spike in four-person teams.

“Traditionally we’ve started the race in two waves – with the solo, two-, and four-person teams leading off, followed by the 8-person teams after a time lag,” Kramer says.

This year, the race will start in three separate waves: solo and two-person teams heading out at 8:25 a.m., followed by four-person teams at 8:40 a.m., and eight-person teams at 9:00 a.m.  

This way, it will take until at least the third leg of the race for the fastest members of each consecutive group to catch their predecessors. The organizers hope this will help alleviate some of the traffic congestion at early checkpoints.

Kramer says around 500 extra vehicles travel the highway between Haines Junction and Haines, Alaska, because of the bike relay, so traffic control is essential.

“There will be northbound traffic allowed through checkpoint one, and only single lane southbound traffic, near the start of the race,” says Kramer. “Additionally checkpoint two will also see some traffic control in the early hours of race day.”

Cadence Cycle is supporting solo riders at checkpoints three and five. There will be snacks and drinks for those cycling all the way to Haines, Alaska.

“This both allows for much needed additional support for those riders taking on the course solo, while also allowing those solo riders to double up on their support vehicles, since they will be able to send supplies ahead to the support stations,” says Kramer.

Two other changes to the race are in the works, too.

For the first time, members of two- and four-person teams can shift the number of legs each team member cycles. If one rider is stronger than another, they can to take part of their teammate’s portion. The caveat is that a team will be ineligible for the much-coveted ribbons if they re-distribute routes.

The second change is aimed at children who get dragged along on race day, spending a slow day in a support vehicle.

The Haines Sportsman Club and Fish and Game Association will be running a free 15-and-under fishing derby on Sunday morning. Kramer says they’re doing what they can to give the bicycle relay a family atmosphere.

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