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Breaking down The Alaska Challenge: 7 days, 8 stages, 250-plus miles of handcycling

  • Author: Alaska News
  • Updated: September 28, 2016
  • Published July 20, 2015

The Alaska Challenge 2015

8-stage handcycle race

Stage 1, Tuesday, July 21, 9:15 a.m. start (Lake Hood to Kincaid Park, 9.1-mile time trial): From Lake Hood, racers catch the Coastal Trail south to Kincaid Park, where a daunting hill awaits them before the finish line.

Stage 2, Tuesday, July 21, 2 p.m. start (Cuddy Family Midtown Park, 40th Avenue and B Street, criterium, 45 minutes): Racers will have little time to recover from the morning time trial before hitting this spectator-friendly criterium on a 400-meter oval. Racers will finish as many laps as possible.

Stage 3, Thursday, July 23, 9 a.m. start (Ester to Nenana, 46.2-mile road race): After an off day to accommodate travel to Fairbanks, this stage will give racers their first taste of the hills, which are long and frequent. Very likely to result in the first significant time gaps between athletes.

Stage 4, Friday, July 24, 9 a.m. start (Nenana to Healy, 50.7-mile road race): Racers do not even remotely catch a break after the first hard hills in the previous stage. This stage is one long slog that gets harder as it gets longer. The stage is seldom flat or downhill, and usually uphill, with nearly 4,000 feet of climbing.

Stage 5, Saturday, July 25, 9 a.m. start (Denali Park Time Trial, 9.8 miles): This out-and-back time trial will test recovery and race management -- racers will want to put in a strong effort, yet still reserve energy for the afternoon stage that is no pushover.

Stage 6, Saturday, July 25, 1:30 p.m. start (Parks Highway Milepost 191 to 159, 31.8-mile road race): This is the first stage that is largely downhill, but the quick turnaround time from the stage earlier in the day will require racers to recover quickly for this second dose of competition.

Stage 7, Sunday, July 26, 8:30 a.m. start (Denali View South, Kashwitna Lake to Talkeetna, 58.4-mile road race): This penultimate stage marks another downhill leg, with some climbs, including a short, punishing one early. But it is also the longest stage of the Alaska Challenge and could have fatigued racers groaning and eager for race's end.

Stage 8, Monday, July 27, 9 a.m. start, Palmer to Hatcher Pass, 18.8-mile road race): The race's end is near, but it's also time to embrace agony. This stage -- one long climb -- gains more than 3,500 feet of elevation and makes for a trademark stamp on the end of an event that bills itself as "The Longest and Hardest Handcycle Race in the World."