Pedalling to the finish

Tim Alderson completes the last leg of the race, placing the Blood, Sweat and Gears in first place.

Blood, sweat and beer
Skagway teams rise to the top despite setbacks

Three years ago at a dinner party in the dark of winter, eight men decided to form a Skagway bike team and compete in the Kluane to Chilkat International Bike Relay. The first year, three people couldn’t compete the week before the race and the team scrambled to find substitutes. Last year, a team member came down with shingles. Again, they begged around for a sub.
This year – all eight original members screamed and yelled when the last rider crossed the finish line, putting the team first in its division.
“It took three years to do it all together,” said Tim Alderson, final leg rider for the 8-man team Blood, Sweat and Gears. “The last two years now we’ve finished second and have been really close. This year finally it worked out.”
The team placed 17 out of the race’s 200 teams in 6 hours, 40 minutes and 59 seconds.
“It was smooth, everything went perfect, it couldn’t have gone better,” team captain Curt Dodd said. “Team spirit made a really compatible team.”
Although the team took first in its division, it was not an easy race, leg five rider Peter Jepsen said.
“We were close the whole way,” he said, adding that they were riding close, drafting with a Whitehorse team. “We got to talk to some of them.”

Denise Sager prepares to take off on her leg.

What do winners in this race do first after the finish line? Drink beer.
“That’s priority now,” Dodd said after the race.
But Alderson lingered near the finish and said, “It feels pretty damn good.”
Approximately 1,200 bike riders competed in the 148.4 mile race that started at Haines Junction, Yukon and finished at Fort Seward Barracks in Haines June 15. The course was divided into eight legs, 12 to 25 miles each.
Of the 10 Skagway teams that participated in the race, five placed in the top five in their divisions.
Taking second place in the Womens-8 division with a time of 7 hours, 45 minutes and 53 seconds was Seven Bitches on a Ride, with only six of their riders.
Captain Suwanee Pickerel said the team was surprised to place so well because four days prior to the race, two members dropped out due to illness.

Soft and Supple first year-rider Russ Fulmer proudly poses at the side of the road.

“I decided to stick with the six and it turned out great,” she said.
Many of the team members participated in the race before, she said, but on different teams.
Pickerel said she practiced riding up the pass as often as she could.
“In general, I’m not in good shape,” she said laughing.
She said the team will definitely try to race again next year.
“Hopefully with the same eight bitches,” she said jokingly.
Life’s Rich Pageant, whose team name was taken from an REM album, placed third in the 8-man team division with the time of 7 hours, 14 minutes and 40 seconds, placing 42nd overall.
To train, team captain Tom Pickerel said, “I went to Lower Lake 42 times in the past 45 days.”
The team hiked and skied more than riding their bikes to prepare for the race, he said.
“Riding the bike hurts your butt,” he said.
Pickerel said the team has been a core group for the past six years except for the inclusion of Karen Messing this year.
“They were desperate,” Messing said laughing of her inclusion on the team. “I think I’ll be invited back.”

Thomas Pickerel’s tongue is hanging out on his leg in the mountains.

Leg-8 rider John Briner jokingly said their immediate plans after finishing the race were to start training and riding for next year’s race.
Pickerel chimed in and said, “We only drink beer in bottles.”
Another Skagway team, Soft and Supple, did not place in the top five, but claimed their first-time bike team included eight alcoholics, four chain smokers and one fat tug boat captain.
Soft and Supple took 17th place out of 18 teams in the 8-man division with a time of 9:44:51.
Leg eight rider Russ Fulmer, who could not see the finish line because he was having problems with his contacts, said his training included riding his bike from Moe’s Frontier Bar to the Elks.
Chiming in, team member Alex King said, “That’s why our name is Soft and Supple.”
To train next year, King said, “I’ll just pick an easier leg.”
When asked why they decided to form a bike team, King simply said, “It’s better than running.”
The team’s plans after the race — drink.

Kimmie Cook and Amy Labesky rescue beer falling out of the back of their car.

Skagway Riders
Team Places and Times
Four-Person Men’s division: Last Minute, 11th place, 6:47:37. Sockeye Four Runs, 13th place, 7:04:46. Eight-Person Men’s division: Blood Sweat and Gears, first place, 6:40:59. Life’s Rich Pageant, third place, 7:14:40. Soft and Supple, 17th place, 9:44:51. Eight-Person Women’s division. Seven Bitches on a Ride, second place, 7:45:53. Pokey Spokes, fifth place, 8:19:14. Eight-Person Mixed: Sockeye Raisinettes, fifth place, 7:17:07. Team No Sweat, 31st place, 8:27:58. Fish-n-Tits, 62nd place, 9:42:22.

Photos by Dimitra Lavrakas

From top: Julene Fairbanks cheers her team on; Michael Yee and Curt Dodd hydrate with water; Shannon Thorne of Seven Bitches on a Ride, rides into the finish line of her leg; Michael Cook and Lara Labesky watch as Fish and Tits teammate Monica Ibache triumphantly finishes her leg; Ralph Gorichanaz, Cynde Adams, Peter Jepsen, Tim Alderson, Larry Gullingsrud, Curt Dodd, Jason Neely and Michael Yee of Blood Sweat and Gears pose for a picture at the finish line; Chareth Whiteman, Cory Thole and Julene Fairbanks share a laugh at an aide station.