The two Skagway four-person mixed gendered teams Neisyeemoy Briner and Skagway Coyotes posed with former Skagway mayor Skip Elliot after finishing the race. KR

2010 Kluane Chilkat Bike Relay hits record high with 260 teams

Story & Photos by KELLY ROBERTS and KATIE EMMETS

Although race directors thought the rise in fuel prices might put a damper on attendance, 2010’s Kluane Chilkat International Bike Relay hit record high numbers with 260 teams, including eight from Skagway.
On June 19, 1,260 bikers in teams of one, two, four, and eight left in three 15 minute staggered starts beginning at 8:30 a.m. and fought extreme headwinds and grueling hills.
The eight-leg course spanned across 152 miles and two countries starting at Hanes Junction, YT and ending in Haines, AK.
Weather for the race varied dramatically, with starting temperatures in the 30s at the race’s start, a hypothermia case at the summit, and sunny blue skies by the race’s end.
The winning two-person team, and the first team to cross the finish line, came in at 7 hours and 26 seconds followed closely by a pair of two-person teams and the first solo rider. All four men were part of a Fairbanks team called Raven Racing.
Teamwork was the unofficial theme of this year’s race. Teams used drafting, riding directly behind someone to lessen the effect of the headwind, as a strategy to conserve energy and increase speed. In drafting, bikers take turns leading the pack for short amounts of time and the method enhances efficiency with each person who joins.
The Skagway four-person mixed-gender teams Neisyeemoy Briner and Skagway Coyotes rode together for the entire race so they could use the drafting technique and have someone available should they run into trouble on the bike.
And the strategy worked well.
John Briner and Spencer Morgan, the leg seven and eight riders for the respective teams, drafted with former Skagway mayor Skip Elliot from the two-person team Leben ist Schwer of Juneau. Every 15 seconds Briner would tell the team it was time for a new front man. With their bikes, the three jumped over the finish line together, and both Briner and Morgan ended with a time of 8 hours and 56 minutes and Elliot with a time of 8 hours and 45 minutes.
Some Skagway teams, however, didn’t have the drafting option.
Skagway’s four-person men’s team Medium Sockeye Stew was the first Skagway team across the finish line at 8 hours and 32 minutes.
Legs seven and eight rider Luke Smith admitted that drafting would have helped the team even more, adding that the winds he faced on the relatively flat road into Haines made him feel like he was riding uphill.
Sockeye Cycle employee Jamie Bissell finished the race in 8 hours and 56 minutes as the only Skagway solo rider. The 27-year-old said he met up with three riders from Whitehorse to draft with for the last 55 miles.
“You have to do it,” he said. “Especially in a race like that where there are headwinds the entire time without reprieve. They were impressive.”
With his support vehicle not being able to find him, he said the bikers he was riding with offered their support vehicle’s services and filled up his water bottle when he ran out.
A Tasmania, Australia resident, Bissell found the job at Sockeye Cycle online while visiting family in California, and after he was hired a man told him about the Haines Junction to Haines race when he was in New Zealand.
Bissell plans to do several more races in the region before he goes back to Australia for the winter season.
Team Soft and Supple, the eight-person mens team, was all about overcoming obstacles. Staying true to the quote by Skagway resident John Briner on their sweatshirts: “The bike race is just a vehicle to get to ‘the party’,” the team pulled out all stops to make it to the end.
When two team members didn’t make the morning ferry to Haines, Devin Fairbanks was forced to step in for leg seven at the last minute, riding a small knob-like pedal, which was made for bike shoes, in bulky tennis shoes.
After riding the first leg of the race, Mike Korsmo also stepped up to the plate by biking leg six.
“I found out that our other rider was out in town last night and somehow couldn’t make it, sports injury,” said Korsmo.
Still, with a 9 hour and 31 minute finish time, team Soft and Supple defended its title as champion of the men’s eight-person team for the second year in a row, a title they earned last year as the only men’s eight-person team. But this year they beat two other teams in their class.
To see complete results, visit www.kcibr.org.

RIDING WITH THE WIND

John Briner and Spencer Morgan draft with former Skagway Mayor Skip Elliot in leg eight. KE

Jamie Bissell, a Sockeye Cycle Employee from Tasmania, Australia was the only solo rider from Skagway. Bissell finished the race in 8 hours and 56 miunites. Tim Fairbanks of the Skagway team Soft and Supple crosses the finish line to beat the two other teams in the 8-person mens division. KR

Cindy O’Daniel races across the finishline for team Deep Fried Pickles. Team Medium Sockeye Stew celebrates after being the first team from Skagway to finish the race. KR