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Cyclists lead the way in 100-mile Alaska wilderness race

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Posted: Tuesday, March 27, 2012 12:04 am | Updated: 1:51 pm, Wed Jan 16, 2013.

Correction: Abby Rideout of Anchorage was the first woman skier to finish in 19 hours, 37 minutes. Lisa Beattie finished in 24:30.

FAIRBANKS — Anchorage fat biker Tim Bernston pulled away from fellow fattie Kevin Breitenbach of Fairbanks to win the third annual White Mountains 100 human-powered race by 21 minutes on Sunday.

Bernston was the only racer to break the 12-hour barrier, covering the 100-mile course in the White Mountains National Recreation Area north of Fairbanks in 11 hours, 57 minutes for an average speed of 8.5 mph. Breitenbach was second in 12:18.

With the victory, Bernston avenged a close loss to Breitenbach in the Arrowhead 135 in Minnesota in February when Breitenbach edged Bernston by half a wheel length in a sprint to the finish in that race.

As they have the previous two years, cyclists riding fat-tired bikes dominated the standings.

Cyclists captured the top three spots and five of the top six places. Lou Bregou of Littleton, N.H., was third in 12:30.

Anchorage skier Rob Whitney placed fourth overall in 13:01 to defend his title in the ski division and Anchorage cyclist Ethan Kopacz rounded out the top five in 13:46.

Fairbanks skier Mike Kramer was second among skiers and seventh overall with a time of 14:26, followed by skiers Cory Smith of Anchorage in 14:34 and Max Kaufman of Fairbanks in 14:55.

The top women’s finisher was Anchorage cyclist Janice Tower, who finished 10th overall with a time of 15:04.

Abby Rideout of Anchorage was the first woman skier to finish in 19 hours, 37 minutes. Lisa Beattie of Fairbanks finished in 24:30.

Sixty-five racers started the race on Sunday morning and 56 had finished as of 8 p.m. Monday.

Frederick Davis of Cleveland, Ohio, traveling by foot, was still on the trail and eight racers withdrew from the race, including defending women’s ski champ Kate Arduser of Cordova, who pulled out 62 miles into the race because she reportedly wasn’t feeling well.

Trail conditions were more challenging this year than the past two years.

Snow in the Cache Mountain Divide was up to 6 inches deep and there was knee-deep overflow at the top of the pass. The trail also was narrower than past years and slightly concave, which made riding and skiing tougher.

Bernston’s time was almost two hours slower than the course record of 10 hours, 10 minutes set by Greg Matyas of Anchorage last year.

“This year there was a lot more challenges with weather, gear and conditions,” said Kramer, who was back at work in his law office on Monday. “There was more to contend with.

“It snowed intermittently throughout the day and there was lots of fresh snow and deep powder on parts of the course, which made things slow and boggy,” he said. “There was more overflow and it iced up your bindings and skis.”

Flat light also made it hard to see bumps in the trail, Kramer said.

“The trail conditions were hard to make out, especially when it was snowing,” he said.

Bernston and Breitenbach were pretty much neck and neck the entire race until Bernston pulled ahead slightly in the final 40 miles.

Bernston held a 13-minute lead over Breitenbach leaving Borealis LeFever Cabin and widened his advantage by another eight minutes on the final 20 miles to the finish.

Whitney actually was leading the race at the 62-mile mark. He left the Windy Gap Cabin with a three-minute lead but Bernston, Breitenbach and Bregou were able to overtake Whitney on the 20-mile section of trail between Windy Gap Cabin and Borealis LeFever Cabin.

“I thought in a few places it was going to be the year of the skier but the trail firmed up and the bikes really rolled away that last 40 miles,” Kramer said. “If the trail had been as punchy as it was in spots earlier and the bikers had as many problems as they had going over (Cache Mountain Divide) we migt have pulled it off.

“Conditions this year were the best they’re going to be to equalize skiers and bikers and we still couldn’t do it,” he said. “It’s pretty amazing what those (fat tire) bikes can do.”

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