Over 1,300 cyclists woke up to disappointing news early Saturday morning.
The Kluane Chilkat International Bike Relay was cancelled due to about six centimetres of snow accumulation, affecting the first three legs of the 240-kilometre race from Haines Junction to Haines, Alaska, on June 17.
“We were disappointed, we wanted to have a bike relay, but overriding that was the need for it to be safe,” said race coordinator Mike Kramer. “We made a fairly quick decision, like between 5:30 and 6 o’clock. By the time I got in touch with the board members I could get in touch with and the race officials, I was pretty sure I knew the answer, and we made the decision to cancel.”
After race organizers decided to cancel, they worked to get the word out as much as possible, said Kramer.
Though concerns over weather conditions have been raised in the past, this was the first time the event has been cancelled in its 25-year history.
“We’ve had cold before, but the primary trigger was the snow accumulation on the road,” said Kramer.
“Any snow accumulation on the road triggers us to consider if that is bikeable. Most of the folks on our board and most of the bikers we talked to — especially with skinny tires — said that’s not safe.”
Registration fees, which range from $76 for solo rides and $608 for eight-person teams, will not be refunded. Only a few registrants have inquired into refunds, said Kramer.
“We have a no-refund policy,” said Kramer. “KCIBR is a non-profit. All of the expenses before anybody’s bike goes on the road are actually incurred. And we have obligations to the volunteer groups that we had agreements in place to help us run the event, some of who did their work, to do set-up. And the event does contribute $16,000 back to those different non-profit groups.
“That’s the nature of an event like this. Most of the money (for) highway permits, insurance, all that stuff, is spent well before the event takes place.”
Though the race was called off, cyclists were still encouraged to drive to Haines for festivities. The salmon dinner still took place and was “busy,” said Kramer, though no precise attendance figure is available.
“I was reassured yesterday (Saturday) and all day today, because we went down to Haines yesterday to continue on with clean-up, and I saw lots of riders out on the road,” said Kramer. “And today it was a glorious day on the Haines Highway. You wouldn’t have known that there was two or three inches of snow on parts of it yesterday. We saw lots of riders on it and I’m sure most of them were riders who had hoped to ride in the event.”
The Kluane Chilkat is one of the biggest events, participation wise, in Yukon each year, surpassed only by the Klondike Trail of ’98 Road Relay running event that last year had 1,870 participants.
The race board is already thinking towards next year’s relay. They will have to decide whether to call the 2018 bike relay — already scheduled for June 16 — the 25th or the 26th annual.
“That topic of conversation has already started to materialize,” said Kramer.
Contact Tom Patrick at firstname.lastname@example.org