After last year’s great experience (fabulous weather, good friends) at the Kluane Chilkat International Bike Race (aka Haines 2 Haines) we thought it would be fun to do it again. The bike race runs from Haines Junction, Yukon to Haines, Alaska (240km) and you can ride it solo, in a 2 person team, a 4 person team or an 8 person team.
We pulled together an 8 person team, with the focus being on creating a fun experience for the kids – all about having a goal to train towards and feeling the pride of accomplishing something difficult. With that in mind, we let the 4 kids pick their own legs. This was a good decision from an engagement perspective and an incredibly poor decision if we were actually being strategic about anything… (noted for next year – kids ride the last 4 legs!!!).
Friday night we camped at Quill Creek, which is just near the end of leg one. It meant that we didn’t have to get up at 6:00 am on Saturday morning to head down the highway from Whitehorse. Hunter had a great time hanging with friends and pogosticking/mountain skateboarding under the midnight sun…
Last year the weather was near perfect – no winds and temperatures in the mid 20’s for the whole day. This year, not so much… it poured rain all day on Friday and the winds showed up. Saturday the skies cleared off and there were even moments of sunshine (moments), which helped to offset the significant headwinds that were in place for almost every leg.
The race starts with a 19 km leg, of which half is uphill coming out of Haines Junction. We had an import for this leg, a local Haines Junction runner and dog musher, and she did great – coming in 40th out of 89 riders.
Leg two is just under 40 km in length and mostly flat with some rolling hills. It runs parallel to Dezadeash lake and the headwind came into full play here and Ruby (above with mom Heather & brother Quinn), our 10 year old rider, got pummelled and had to work hard just to keep moving forward. Unfortunately this dropped us into 88 out of 89 teams. The upside is that she worked really hard and finished the leg – a great lesson in perseverance!
Tim rode leg three for us and was a ROCKET! Soooo proud of him – being at the back of the pack, he had to work really hard for the first 5 km to get within reach of a set of riders that he could chase down. He came in 24th out of 89 riders for his leg when you compare times.
Leg four was Anais – another one of our junior riders (10). She was a late addition so didn’t get to select her leg, but bravely took the one available. It was a tough one, with another big up hill section in the front half. It was also long (29km). She and her dad Dave tackled it side by side and her quiet conviction was impressive, even after a bike malfunction early on that had us swap out bikes and she rode Hunter’s bike for most of the leg!
Her team mates were out to cheer her on for the last 500 meters to the checkpoint, running along side. Smiles on everyone’s faces!
Martha took on leg five, just as the rain started to show up. It was a long slog into the wind on her mountain bike, even with the shiny new slicks and clip less pedals…
Hunter selected leg six again this year (27km), which was great as we knew what to expect and even had a time to compare against. Normally the checkpoints are much busier, with lots of people and infrastructure but from checkpoint #2 onwards (transition from leg 2 to leg 3) we seemed to be closing out the checkpoints as one of the last few coming in… it was a bit depressing!
Hunter took off like a rocket, with me as his chaperone riding behind him. At about km 2, we had an RCMP vehicle come up the road towards us with his lights flashing. Hunter waived while all the adults thought – shoot… we’re going to be busted for having 2 riders out on a leg at once. Turns out that a large grizzly bear had just been seen about 2km down the road so we got an RCMP escort for the next 3 km! Hunter was thrilled and I had to smile as he is certainly a kid that would appreciate it!
We caught our own little weather system and ended up with heavy rains and hail at one point on the leg. Hunter did a great job and you could really see his growth and improvement from last year, which was also reflected in his results – he came 75th out of 89 riders, most of which rode the leg without the weather system as they were that much ahead of us in terms of time window. He was 4 minutes slower than his time last year, which was ridden in 25c sunshine and no headwinds. REALLY PROUD OF HIM!!!
Hunter handed off to Hayley (10) for leg seven. She had her dad Rod riding along side to keep her company and check to make sure her cape was flying properly! Unfortunately, checkpoint 7 had actually closed by the time we got there so we came up with our own finish line for her to cross. With the knowledge that the checkpoint was closed, Hayley chose to ride her entire leg (37.5km) to prove that she could do it. FABULOUS JOB…
There is a rule in the KCIBR race that the last rider must leave checkpoint 7 by 7pm Alaska time, whether their team mate has reached there or not. We were definitely well behind that target schedule so sent Jennie, our leg 8 rider, ahead so that she could make the 7pm start. Although we didn’t have a chance to cheer her on, we heard that she had a great ride and came in 65th overall for her leg.
We had lots of fun cheering our team mates on through the ride, even if we were the only ones out on the road. It was a different experience from last year when you were surrounded by other riders and their support people cheering as well. The flip side is that it was really quite peaceful for the kids…
We rolled into Haines around 9:45 alaska time (10:45 yukon time) and were able to sweet talk the folks at the Lighthouse Restaurant into allowing us in, as they were trying to close, for some food. After lots of patient waiting, we finally finished dinner around 11:30 ak time and headed out to the cabin that Rod, Martha & Hayley were borrowing as we didn’t want to wake up our other friends at the campground.
The cabin was tucked away in the woods and had a beautiful view (in the morning). We climbed up into bed in the camper and everyone was sound asleep right away. Morning brought typical SE Alaska weather of rain and fog. We all headed out to the Mountain Market for breakfast and ran into our camping friends, who had been quite worried about our “no show” the night before! With the rain in mind, everyone made the dash to the ferry terminal and we all luckily caught the ferry over to Skagway – it saves about 3.5 hours of driving. The kids enjoyed watching Frozen in the on board movie theatre while the adults chatted and caught up. We topped off the day with a yummy thai lunch at Starfire in Skagway and some shopping for alcohol and smoked salmon, which are both cheaper in Alaska than the Yukon.
It was a LONG and adventure filled weekend and has created a great set of shared memories for many of us.
2 responses to “Who else gets an RCMP escort in a bike race???”
Now that was a great job well done. Grandpa would like to have done that with you. with love.
you guys really know how to live