More than 700 cyclists are gearing up for the 10th annual Fireweed 400 series of races this weekend, the main event being a race of about 400 miles from Sheep Mountain Lodge to Valdez and back. Palmer's Erik Christensen and Kristin Wolf will defend their titles in the men's and women's 400.
Only a dozen or so cyclists are signed up for the 400-miler. The majority will compete in races of 200, 100 or 50 miles.
There is also the Great Alaska 2DAY300K, a two-day, 300-kilometer (186 miles) ride for cyclists who want to experience the ride but aren't interested in serious competition.
"We want to put on the best possible race you can put on, but make it available to every level," race director Peter Lekisch said.
The 200, 100 and 50-mile races will feature strong riders like Anchorage's Shannon Donley, who won the women's 100-miler last summer and will race the 50-miler this weekend.
The 400 begins at noon Friday, with leaders expected to cross the finish line around noon Saturday. Christensen completed the race in 23 hours, 42 minutes last year, with Wolf finishing in 25:34.
The shorter races begin Saturday, starting with the 200-miler at 7 a.m.
This year's event is being held a week later than last year, because Fourth of July traffic would have created problems last weekend, Lekisch said.