Hundreds of bicyclist will swarm town in popular event
In its 11th year running, the Fireweed 400 this weekend will be more like an obstacle course rather than a bike race from Sheep Mountain to Valdez and back. This year, construction on the Glenn Highway will give some racers some trouble. Race director Peter Lekisch says the construction has forced officials to make some adjustments to the race.
“We’re going to allow riders to put their bicycles in a vehicle and go through this construction without any adjustment of time,” Lekisch said. “We’re still in the process of wrestling with an idea that a rider that doesn’t have a support vehicle.”
Lekisch says they have sent a letter to Granite Construction the company to accommodate those riders without a support vehicle. The construction area is about 15 to 16 miles of patchwork. Officials are expecting riders to only go through five miles of the area. Riders shouldn’t have any problems on the Richardson Highway portion of the race. Construction near Valdez is expected to be complete in time for the race.
Despite the obstacles, the Fireweed 400 remains popular around the world. So popular that that officials put a 750 participant -limit on this year’s race. The event had no problems reaching that limit. There are eight relay teams this year. There will be between 80-100 racers involved in the 400-mile category this year. It’s the largest filed for that division in the event’s history.
Hundreds of other racers will compete in the shorter races within the event.
The 400-mile race starts from Sheep Mountain and goes Valdez and back to Sheep Mountain. Some racers choose the 200-mile race option where the race just to Valdez. Lekisch believes some records will in this year’s event.
There is a women’s team made up of Janice Tower and Kristen Wolf of Palmer,” Lekisch said. “Then, there is a men’s team that is combined with the fastest riders from Fairbanks with the fastest riders from Anchorage. They’re trying to break the record in the 400. That record is around 16 hours and 15 minutes.”
Ultra Rider Hall of Famer Lou Meier is expected to ride in the race. It will be the 70 year-old’s 5th appearance in the race.
Motorists are also asked to be aware that hundreds of cyclists will be on the roads this weekend and to drive safely.
The Fireweed 400 kicks off at 9:00 a.m. on Friday, July 12 and ends on July 13.