Whitehorse Daily Star

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Photo by Marissa Tiel

WINTER IN JUNE – Dan Reimer loads a road bike onto his car as the Kluane Chilkat International Bike Relay was cancelled early Saturday morning after snow accumulated near the race start in Haines Junction. Approximately 1,200 people had signed up for the 25th edition of the 240K cycling race from Haines Junction to Haines, Alaska.

Kluane Chilkat International Bike Relay cancelled due to snow

For the first time in race history,

By Marissa Tiel on June 19, 2017

Winter-like conditions, including six centimetres of snow over the race route, led to first cancellation in 25 years

For the first time in race history, the Kluane Chilkat International Bike Relay was cancelled last weekend.

More than six centimetres of snow had fallen on the race route overnight when the call was made to cancel the event, which was celebrating its 25th year.

At 6:11 a.m., a post went up on the Kluane Chilkat International Bike Relay Facebook page announcing the cancellation. “Unfortunately there is a lot of snow on the ground in Haines Junction and even more at elevation,” it read. “For the safety of participants the board and race coordinator have cancelled the race.”

A 240-kilometre cycling race that travels from Haines Junction to Haines, Alaska on mostly pristine pavement attracts cyclists from across the world. This year the race filled up in a record 36 hours with 1,200 participants expected to tackle the route solo and on two, four and eight-person women’s, men’s and mixed teams.

The 25th edition of the race had 92 riders registered in the solo division, which race coordinator Mike Kramer believes is a record.

Precipitation had plagued the area for days leading up to the race. A popular camping area for road relay riders just south of Haines Junction, normally packed with campers, was sparsely populated with tents and RVs Friday night.

Late in the evening the staccato sound of rain on roofs was replaced with light thuds as wet snow began to fall.

In the morning, campers woke to a scene more likely near Christmas than days before summer solstice as snow blanketed the surroundings.

Families cooked bacon and eggs off their tailgates covered in tarpaulins as others dug out their tents and shook snow from their flys.

One mother, who had booked time off work for family vacation around the race, pointed helplessly to the canoe strapped to the roof of their RV. Her children constructed a snowman complete with carrot nose as they waited for more news from the race officials.

Word travelled between campgrounds and rest areas down the Haines Highway that the race had been cancelled.

Road advisories for sections of the highway up to the summit mentioned slush, black ice and heavy snow. They were lifted shortly after 10:30 a.m. Saturday.

“Safety is our first priority and the snow that fell in the area overnight made the route unsafe for all those involved in the relay,” said Kramer. “It was a disappointing decision to make, but a pretty easy decision to make.”

The fish barbecue at the finish went on as planned in Haines and while it wasn’t as busy as usual, there was still a decent turnout, said Kramer.

The race has had a few close calls with weather in the past. In 2012, racers faced cold temperatures, rain, headwinds and thick fog near the summit.

With snow spotted this year on the first three legs of the race – about 80 kilometres of road, the call was made to cancel.

Many riders were seen out on the Haines Highway later Saturday and Sunday as the snow melted and the pavement dried out.

The Kluane Chilkat Bike Relay requires more than 200 volunteers to make the race happen and many community organizations are awarded honorariums from the race. According to a pre-race press release, the race raised more than $16,000 for community groups in Alaska and the Yukon.

The honorariums will be given again this year. The race fees are non-refundable.

Kramer said that if the race fees were refunded, “that would probably be the end of KCIBR,” a non-profit organization.

There are already discussions on whether next year’s race will be the 26th annual Kluane Chilkat International Bike Relay, or take-two of the 25th.

Comments (6)

Up 29 Down 3

Hugh Mungus on Jun 21, 2017 at 10:06 pm

The loss of $76 must be a real hardship for those riders with $4,000 racing bikes and $900 spandex outfits.

Up 20 Down 3

Mike on Jun 20, 2017 at 6:53 pm

As someone who has raced for 20+ years and had many races cancelled due to inclement weather. I understand that we take the chance with weather and understand not getting refunds for our entry fees. I only hope that those who entered this year are given first 'dibs' to enter in next years event at an earlier date (with an expiry to enter) before the 'open' entry is open to others.

Up 24 Down 0

Doug Setter on Jun 20, 2017 at 10:40 am

This was my first KCBR and we pushed onto to Haines, Alaska and did our own short version. Beautiful country, great salmon roast, friendly locals. The Haines Hitch-up RV Park was clean, quiet and friendly. We then came back on the Skagway Ferry. I am definitely coming back next year. Haines, Alaska rocks!

Up 35 Down 2

BnR on Jun 19, 2017 at 7:18 pm

24 years running and not a hitch. One year, ONE, gets cancelled due to a freak weather event and people are complaining about getting refunds? $76?
People are riding around on road bikes, in many cases worth in excess of $5000, and people are complaining about $76??? They'd blow more than that at the Fogcutter.
Special snowflakes indeed.
Time to get over it.

Up 10 Down 25

You're really not giving a discount or partial refund? #notethical on Jun 19, 2017 at 4:33 pm

If they have $16000 to give to community groups for honorariums, and the price of the race cost us participants $76 each, I think they should give a partial refund or discount for next year.
Some of the participants could really use that money, especially since it was totally cancelled. And if I was volunteering, I wouldn't expect to get paid for work I didn't do at check points--pay the volunteers who did the other tasks to prep the race. Since the jersey order was messed up and jerseys weren't even there, you should just cancel the order. Who wants to wear a jersey for a race that never happened? Sell those jerseys for next year. Very disappointing but even more so when you just keep the $91200 that you made from entry fees of a race that wasn't even postponed, just cancelled. I realize that you can't help the weather but other large cycling races give some compensation in cases like this.

Up 35 Down 5

Michael McCann on Jun 19, 2017 at 4:29 pm

I think that one option the organizers can look at is offering a guaranteed place in next year's race to all who paid this year and/or a discounted entry fee. I have seen this happen at other large events that have had to cancel.

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