Poland's Rafal Wilk stretched his overall lead in the Sadler's Alaska Challenge to more than four minutes with his impressive performance Wednesday in Stage 2 of the event that bills itself as the longest, toughest handcycling race on the planet.
Wilk covered the grinding 46.3 miles from Ester to Nenana in 2 hours, 24 minutes, 25 seconds to give him an elapsed time of 2:50:07. That furnished Wilk, who won two gold medals at the London Paralympics, an overall cushion of 4:17 over Walter Ablinger of Austria.
Ablinger clocked Wednesday's second-fastest time (2:28:01) and owns an overall time of 2:54:23. Butch Martin of Indiana posted Wednesday's third-fastest time (2:44:11) and is third overall at 3:13:06.
Thea Rosa of California posted the fastest time among three women with her 4:06:02 on Wednesday, and that kept her in first place in her division by nearly 11 minutes.
Wednesday's stage, which came after Tuesday was reserved for rest and travel following Monday's opening time trial in Anchorage, featured some daunting climbs, especially a long, steep grade departing Ester.
Thursday's Stage 3, a 51-miler from Nenana to Healy, is likewise difficult. The course is almost entirely a gradual uphill and the last mile of the climb is particularly daunting. That stretch of the Parks Highway is often buffeted by winds too.
The seven-stage race includes $24,000 in prize money, split evenly across four divisions. Top prize in each division is $3,000, second prize is $2,000 and third place earns $1,000.
The race closes Sunday with a 22.5-mile stage from Palmer to Independence Mine that requires racers to gain more than 3,500 feet of elevation.
Sadler's Alaska Challenge
Wednesday's Stage 2 -- 46.3 miles
(Overall time in parentheses)
H2 -- 1) Walter Ablinger 2:28:01 (2:54:23); 2) Peer Bartels 2:52:46 (3:23:31); 3) Jacob Freeland 3:51:25 (4:25:16); 4) Michael Bishop 4:37:05 (5:22:06).
H3 -- 1) Rafal Wilk 2:24:25 (2:50:07, overall leader); 2) Butch Martin 2:44:11 (3:13:06); 3) Carlos Moleda 2:49:08 (3:17:43); 4) Michael Postell 3:15:56 (3:48:52); 5) Gerard Ah Fook 3:34:38 (4:08:27); 6) Larry Coutermarsh 7:10:00 (7:57:44).
H4 -- 1) Alfredo de los Santos 2:58:25 (3:27:53); 2) Robert Puckett III 3:18:42 (3:50:12); 3) Joseph Beimfohr 4:50:37 (5:31:48).
Women -- 1) Thea Rosa 4:06:02 (4:42:20); 2) Carrie Finale 4:13:30 (4:53:12); 3) Karin Korb 4:50:37 (5:33:26).