This year's Tour of Juneau cycling race will bring together more than just the top local riders for the four-day stage race.
The event will also bring together some of Southeast's top cyclists when it opens at 6:30 p.m. tonight. Tonight's opening stage is a 2-mile prologue from the Upper Mendenhall River Bridge to the rifle range on Montana Creek Road.
``We're expecting some real strong competition to come into town,'' said Dave Ringle, the contact for the Juneau Freewheelers' Association that organizes the race. ``We've got Dan Kelliher, who's done the Iditasport and the Mount Washington Hill Climb, and Tim Revallee coming from Sitka. Those two were on the winning team at Kluane (the Kluane to Chilkat International Bike Relay). Dan Harrington and maybe Steve Williams will be here from Haines, and Joe Bowen of Gustavus might come in if he can get off work.''
Ringle said four cyclists from Whitehorse, Yukon Territory, canceled from the race on Wednesday morning, but the field should still be loaded. The husband-wife pairing of Dan and Julie Graves from Juneau, who won the men's and women's titles two years ago, are entered and should make their return to local cycling events after more than a year off the circuit, Ringle said.
Doug Woodby won last year's men's overall title, slipping ahead of Stage Three overall points leader Tony Jacobsen when Jacobsen got a flat tire in the final stage. Betsy Fischer won last year's women's title.
There will be a few changes to the stages this year because of chip seal placed on certain roads around town. The chip seal, a covering of loose gravel and oil, caused two racers to flat during last year's final stage race. The chip seal can also cause problems with traction, so Ringle said some stages moved for safety reasons.
Tonight's prologue and Thursday's 5-mile Eaglecrest Hill Climb (6:30 p.m. at Mile 0.5 Fish Creek Road, the road to Eaglecrest Ski Area) will both stay the same as planned.
Ringle said race organizers are unsure whether Friday night's 10mile False Outer Point Time Trial (6:30 p.m. at the False Outer Point parking lot) will stay the same, or if it will move to the North Douglas Highway-Douglas Bridge parking lot. The distance will stay the same, and the turnarounds are close to each other, but there is chip seal on the North Douglas Highway near False Outer Point. If the stage moves toward the Douglas Bridge there will be more traffic - and the highway shoulder was swept of chip seal two weeks ago for the Capital CityFish On Duathlon at False Outer Point - so the stage might stay where it's scheduled.
But Saturday's final stage - a 35-mile road race that starts at 10 a.m. - has been moved, said stage organizer Lou Edwards.
Edwards said cyclists should park their cars at the Lena Point Picnic Area, which is near the finish line, and bike over to the starting line at the Alaska Marine Highway Ferry Terminal Employee Parking Lot. The road race will feature three midrace sprints, where the racers can pick up bonus points for the overall point standings.
The racers will follow Glacier Highway to Mile 13, where they'll follow the new Auke Rec Bypass for a midrace sprint to the top of the hill. They will continue down the road, past the Shrine of St. Therese to Peterson Creek for another midrace sprint. The race turnaround will be at the end of the road, where the chip seal starts. Coming back, there will be another midrace sprint at the Herbert River, Edwards said.
For more information, see the Sports in Juneau listings on Page 10.