End of an era

by • June 11, 2014 • ToastComments (0)1226

Cycling champion Lekisch leaves lasting legacy to those left behind

I haven’t raced the Fireweed for more than five years – our family’s summer business takes us on boats in Cook Inlet in July nowadays, making it impossible to be on the bike. Still, not a year goes by that on the day of this well-loved race, I don’t stop, make a silent wish for the racers’ safety and send an imaginary high-five to race co-founder Peter Lekisch.
For those of us in the outdoors community, the news of Peter’s death in December 2013 came as a shock – and remains so even now. How could such a fine and fit man be gone so soon? His loss is felt deep and painfully in the athletic community that he so enhanced in Alaska – from racquetball to cycling to skiing to fishing – Peter made Alaska a better place. And we Alaskans are the better for it.
This month’s Coast, as is the case with every June, is packed with activity ranging from fishing to running to hiking and cycling. And cycling, whether on the roads, trails, or somewhere in between, is what we zoom in on. Peter’s Fireweed, a cycling event that covers distances ranging from 50 miles to an overnighter, is a beloved summer event, taking place in mid-July every year – and the race will go on, because that’s what Peter’s friends know he would want. Janice Tower, arguably one of the best cycling coaches and female riders in Alaska, knew Peter well and shares the thoughts of others who did as well – be sure to read about it on Page 72.

Melissa DeVaughn (fourth from right) rides in a pack during the 2008 Fireweed 100 road race. ANDY HALL

Melissa DeVaughn (fourth from right) rides in a pack during the 2008 Fireweed 100 road race. ANDY HALL

Learn about how Peter’s legacy has helped shape the lives of young Alaskans competing on the local and national scene. Again Tower gives us a glimpse of the road-racing life of some up-and-coming Alaska cyclists, found on pages 12-14 .
Or spread your scope and look elsewhere. Southcentral is not the only place for great Alaska riding, and Haines freelancer Angela Goodwin shares some details on the Kluane Chilkat International Road Relay, which attracts more than 1,000 riders and racers each year (see Page 6 for more on that). And be sure to bookmark the link to the Arctic Bicycle Club’s summer race series, at arcticbikeclub.org. If you’re new to the cycling scene, these fun races, ranging from time trials to hill climbs to peleton-packed criteriums, are offered all summer long for beginners to experts.
Also new to Anchorage this year is the arrival of the World Single Speed Championships, a mix between impressive riding and crazy personalities. It all takes place in Anchorage in July, and details on this world-class event can be found on Page 9.
It’s true that there are very few roads in Alaska, but that doesn’t stop Alaskans from finding way to factor cycling into their routines. Like Peter, we’ve found that the best way to enjoy Alaska is to embrace it, taking those glorious summer days in stride, while still learning to appreciate a 100-mile ride in the cold rain. It’s one of the things that make Alaskan cyclists as tough as they are, that ability to adapt, be challenged and yet still enjoy the moment. Hats off to you, Peter. This summer you will be riding in the memories of many people touched by your contributions to cycling.


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