Overview Of Night Race At Dredge LakeThe Saturday evening sunbeams allowed Juneau's staunch mountain bikers to prepare for an eventful season finale to the 2008 local racing scene.
The mountain bike season came to a close with an outstanding turnout for the annual nighttime race on a two-lap, 11-mile Dredge Lake racecourse. Twenty racers participated in a race that ended well after the daylight disappeared.
The starting line flickered with headlamps and bike lights, but darkness hid the puddles that blocked the rain-soaked road. As the riders broke off the line, streaks of water splashed through the air and drenched the dry clothing designed to fend off the night's chill.
First-year racer Brett Kovach felt like the race needed to be renamed the "Calamity Classic."
"Although I was able to ride the first lap without going over my handlebars, I wasn't so fortunate on the second lap," he said. "I also took off my sweatshirt before the race. That was a wrong move because I started near the back of the pack and going through those puddles was like being in a bad carwash."
The cold start was not the only obstacle to overcome.
The darkness posed numerous complications. The rider's perception was reduced to a small box of vision only about 12 feet in length and 4 feet in width. Objective hazards, like rock and layers of slippery roots, appeared out of nowhere and reacting to those surprises proved quite challenging.
A wet boardwalk caused several wrecks, but nothing too serious.
Several participants, including first-year Juneau resident Bryce Markey, had never riden bikes at night out near Mendenhall Glacier.
"My neck is a bit sore from going down on one of the boardwalks," said Markey, formerly of Buckley, Wash. "The course is a lot tougher on the lungs and the muscles then the downhill tracks I am used to back home, that's for dang sure. It's been a long time since I did a cross-country."
Bilderbeck finished with a time of 52:44, earning him second place. Bilderbeck's last-minute configuration of a lighting system drastically minimized his field of vision.
Steering off the trail on numerous occasions, participants regularly heard Bilderbeck voice sounding out of the night, "I can't see the trail." He too went down on the boardwalk and yet another rider rode off to the far side, ending up in the lake's edge waters.
At the race's conclusion, a headcount was double-checked to make sure no one got lost. The well-marked trail limited the confusion of route finding; a blessing to the fact that no one rode off-course and into some other dimension of the night.