HAINES -- Their team may be called "Road Rage," but after Saturday's Kluane-Chilkat International Bike Relay the three riders on the Whitehorse, Yukon Territory, team had no reason to be angry.
The three riders -- Chris Milner, Scott Puskas and Paul Christensen -- broke the the course record for the 147.8-mile race from Haines Junction, Yukon Territory, to Haines, Alaska, posting a time of 6 hours, 10 minutes, 26 seconds. That shattered the 1997 course record of 6:15:47 held by the Juneau team of Dan Graves, Julie Graves and Tony Jacobsen.
Team Road Rage's time also was more than 16 minutes faster than the second-place team of Team Toyota-Strictly Recreational of Whitehorse and Haines (Alain Masson, Dan Harrington, Lucy Steele-Masson and Mike McCann), which finished in 6:26:29. Sprocket Rockets of Juneau (Chris Scholes, Doug Woodby, Dave Pusich and Eric Olsen) took third place in 6:30:30, followed by Phantom Power KCD of Whitehorse in 6:30:35 and Team Tim of Whitehorse in 6:30:39 for fifth place.
"It was ideal conditions," said Christensen, who rode the final three legs of the eight-stage race for Team Road Rage. "It was a super strong pack."
"The pack was really strong through legs one, two and three, and then it started to separate," said Milner, who rode the first three legs for Team Road Rage. "It was really fun to ride in the pack."
The lead pack started to separate after the third leg, but it wasn't until the transition between legs four and five that Team Road Rage grabbed the lead for good. Phantom Power KCD, a two-person team of Roger Armstrong and Scott Stevens, led by 30 seconds entering the exchange zone, but Puskas said they messed up their transition and he was able to grab the lead before they made their tag. Once Puskas had the lead, Team Road Rage was never challenged again.
"It was a pretty fun time, plus we've had our rivalry with Sitka (Team Yellow Jersey, which took eighth place this year)," Christensen said before finding out about the course record. "That's a bonus."
Rounding out the top dozen teams were Jan's Brothel Boys of Skagway in 6:32:36 for sixth place, Team Rotary International of Juneau in 6:35:05 for seventh place, Team Yellow Jersey-3 of Sitka in 6:37:19 for eighth, Exiles from the Rain Forest of Juneau in 6:41:31 for ninth, Aroma Borealis of Whitehorse in 6:48:28 for 10th place, La Lanterne Rouge of Juneau in 6:51:39 for 11th place and Ross Phillips of Whitehorse in 6:52:55 for 12th place.
Final results weren't available at press time Saturday night and they will run later this week. The final results will also be posted on the Kluane-Chilkat International Bike Relay's Web site, http://www.hainesak.com/bikerelay, and a link to the site will be made on the Juneau Empire's Web site, http://juneauempire.com.
Saturday's race featured nearly 1,100 cyclists, 160 volunteers and 600 support vehicles along the Haines Highway, which passes through Yukon Territory, British Columbia and Alaska en route from Haines Junction to Haines.
Along the course, there were a couple of bear sightings including two black bears at the end of leg two and a brown/grizzly bear in the middle of leg three. At Friday night's team captain's meeting, Harrington spoke about the hazards of racing through bear country, telling riders what the bears were eating (a plant called oxytropus, commonly known as vetch) and how to avoid trouble.
"If you see a bear, stop and wait for a vehicle to take you through," said Harrington, the lone Haines rider on Team Toyota-Strictly Recreational. "If he comes after you, get under your bike. It's bad luck if he charges. But it's better to lose three minutes off your leg time than to lose your leg."
The riders benefitted from a tail wind at the start, cloudy conditions with a little rain as they went through the Chilkat Pass, then sunny skies as they came into Alaska for the finish.
"We had a little wildlife, a little sun and a little fun," said Juneau's Doug Woodby, of Sprocket Rockets.
"We had similar weather the year we set the record," said Juneau's Dan Graves, who rode with La Lanterne Rouge this year.
While several teams were riding for competitive times, many of them were also in the race for the social event. There was one women's team from Whitehorse where all the riders had Pippi Longstocking pigtails sticking out the sides of their helmets, Juneau's Dale McFarlin rode with a red cape and a piece of lupine sticking out of his helmet, and a group from Haines called "Going Nowhere ... Fast" pulled a trailer behind its vehicle that had three riders on stationary bikes, a person tending a barbecue grill and a person kicked back in an easy chair.
"I saw that brown bear, that was cool," said McFarlin, of Team Pscyclepaths. "It was beautiful. There were lots of friendly people, and the people really liked my cape. Someone called me 'Captain Lupine' when I rode by him."
"It was good, I had one guy to ride with most of the way," said Juneau's Steve Schmitz of Team Rosie's Seed Potatoes. "We were able to encourage each other. It's a lot of fun being with all the teammates again."
Team Rotary International of Juneau featured John McConnochie (a former Olympic swimmer from New Zealand), Scott Fischer, 18-year-old Danish exchange student Martin Strung and his father, Max Strung, a former Danish national cyclist. Max Strung rode the first two legs for the team, and he said he enjoyed the race.
"It's fun. It's great scenery," Strung said.
Charles Bingham can be reached at email@example.com.