Iditabike 1,600-km snow race draws 2 Vancouver cyclists

Two Vancouver men have been training on fat-tired bicycles for what they hope becomes a 20-day epic adventure race along the Iditarod trail in Alaska this February.

Vancouver men train to race 'fatbikes' 1,600 kilometres on snowy Alaskan Iditarod trail

Two Vancouver men plan to race 1,000 miles on the Alaskan tundra 3:46

Two Vancouver men are training for an unbelievable trek, and will be joining 54 other adventurers in February on foot and on bikes on the Iditarod trail in Alaska.

R.J. Sauer and Frank Janssens figure they will need 20 days to complete the 1,600-kilometre trek on their fat-tired bicycles — also called fatbikes — and that some of those days and nights will see temperatures of -40 C.

But they'll have company on the 2014 Iditarod Trail Invitational: The more-famous Iditarod dog sled race takes place at the same time.

R.J. Sauer (left) and Frank Janssens say they registered for the Iditarod trail bike race in February out of a love of adventure. (CBC)

"It's pretty exciting because you see the dogs go by, and you're sort of part of that history," Sauer said.

And some of the cyclists definitely enjoy becoming part of the spectacle, he said.

"The people who are there to watch that all of a sudden see these bikers go by, and they're kind of like, very curious. So it's a lot of fun," Sauer said.

Preparation for the pair has been a combination of sheer grunt work and shrewd planning. Some food will be dropped along the route, but everything else — tents, clothing, gear —  gets packed on the custom fatbike.

Weight is critical because even an few extra ounces could mean the difference between rolling on top of the snow, or trying to plow through it.

R.J. Sauer and Frank Janssens train for the snowy 2014 Iditarod Trail Invitational in Vancouver, by riding and walking their fatbikes on the next best thing: sand. Sauer joins 4 other Canadians and Janssens is the lone Belgian registrant in a field of 56 participants. (CBC)

In the past few months, the pair have been getting out and training as much as possible, practising pushing their bikes as much as riding them.

"The fat bike is totally different than any other bikes. We really have to learn how to be gentle, and spinning really gently," Janssens said. "If you go too aggressively, you really sink in the sand and it will be the same in the snow."

Janssens says he's most looking forward to the natural beauty in Alaska, the quiet and the Northern Lights.

He and Sauer will likely travel together, and may join other riders as well because even though it's called a race, being fastest to the finish isn't really the point.

"Whatever happens, I want to be on the finish line and enjoy my journey," Janssens said. "It's a race, but we don't think of it as a race."

Sauer and Janssens epic adventure starts Feb. 23 in Knik Lake, Alaska, and ends sometime in March in Nome.

With files from the CBC's Karin Larsen

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