The event, now run every other year, covers some 260 miles and offers $25,000 in prize money. As such, it’s attracted some of the most competitive athletes in the world.
“This is going to be a great race this year,” said Beth Edmands, chief executive officer at Challenge Alaska, the primary organizer behind the Sadler’s Furniture-sponsored race. “This is our 27th running of the race. This year, it was very competitive to get in. We only selected 20 people from over 50 applicants.”
This year’s roster includes athletes from four nations – the United States, Poland, Germany and Austria – and boasts three Paralympic medalists. The race will include four categories.
“This year we also have the biggest women’s field with four racers,” Edmands said.
In the Women’s Handcycle division, Muffy Davis, London 2012 triple gold medalist, will be competing in her first Sadler’s Alaska Challenge.
German racer Peer Bartels is returning to see if he can reclaim the titles he won in 2005 and 2006 in the Men’s H2 division, although he will have to battle Walter Ablinger of Austria, another London 2012 gold medalist.
To complete the gold medal circle, the H3 division also includes a Paralympic champion, Rafal Wilk of Poland, who also will try to win the longest and toughest handcycle race in the world.
And, Edmands said, despite the international flavor of this year’s field, there is always room in the Sadler’s Alaska Challenge for Alaskans. This year’s sole Alaska competitor is H3 competitor Larry Coutermarsh from Fairbanks.
“He has done the race almost every year,” Edmands said. “I told him if he ever exceeded 20 times, he would have honorary free entrance for life. We always want to have our Alaskans in this race.”