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For the first time in six years, the Kluane crown is back in Juneau.
Les Schwab Two - a team of Juneau cyclists Steve Box, Chris Scholes, Jan Kriegel and Joe Sorenson - won the 12th annual Kluane Chilkat International Bike Relay on Saturday in Haines by the narrowest of margins.
Sorenson, riding the final two legs of the eight-stage, 148-mile race - beat four other teams to the finish line at the old Fort Seward parade grounds in an ending so close that all five squads were credited with the same time - 6 hours, 53 minutes, 17 seconds.
"It came down to just a large bunch sprint, and somehow I was lucky enough to come out on top," Sorenson said by phone from Haines. He said he stayed back when several other teams began their final sprint some distance from the finish line, then was able to gain on them as they tired down the final stretch.
Les Schwab Two's win is the first by a Juneau team since 1998, when the trio of Dan Graves, Julie Graves and Tony Jacobsen claimed their second straight title.
Solo rider Dave Nigh of Montana took second place, followed by a Whitehorse, Yukon Territory, team in third, solo rider John McConnochie of Juneau in fourth and Juneau's Les Schwab One - Dave Bartlett, Chris Chiles, Terry Ward and Fritz Moser - in fifth place to round out the front-running pack.
Among other Juneau riders, Scott and Betsy Fischer took first place in the mixed two-rider division, and Janice Sheufelt won second place in the women's solo division. Complete results should be released in the next few days, and will be published later this week in the Empire along with additional race details.
This year's record field of more than 230 teams and more than 1,200 riders was greeted by record heat on both ends of the course, which follows the length of the Haines Highway from Haines Junction to Haines. Temperatures hit the mid-80s in both towns.
"It was the hottest race on record," said race board member Dave Ringle of Juneau, who volunteered at an early checkpoint this year. "The times were a little slower than the fastest (years) because the heat sapped a little of the speed."
This year's winning time was well off the race record of 5:55:55, set in 2002 by a four-man team from Whitehorse, Haines and Fairbanks.