Johnson competing in grueling, 267-mile chair race
Chad Johnson of Palmyra is racing in the 19th annual Sadler’s Midnight Sun Ultra Challenge (SMSUC) in Alaska this week.
The SMSUC, which is the longest wheelchair and hand cycle race in the world, is a staged race that travels 267 miles along the Parks and Glenn Highways in Alaska. Competitors with past accomplishments such as the Sydney, Australia Para-Olympics, Hawaii Iron Man, Ride the Rockies, and the Boston Marathon gather to conquer the SMSUC, known as the ‘Tour de Alaska’ and the ‘Holy Grail of Hand cycling.’
This year’s field of racers marks the largest in SMSUC history (25 total). There are 16 men’s hand cyclists, a trio of women’s hand cyclists, and six men’s wheelers.
Prior to making the trip north, Johnson’s racing chair broke at the fork on the front wheel. He tried to get a replacement bike before heading to the SMSUC, however it did not arrive in time. His broken chair was welded back together, but it’s not back in prime racing condition.
After the first two stages, Johnson, who won the Kentucky Derby Festival Triple Crown of Racing two months ago, was in second place and trailed leader Paul Nunnari of Leumeah, Australia.
Nunnari won the silver medal in the 2000 Para-Olympics in Sydney.
Following the third stage Monday, Johnson remained in second place with a total time of 12:10:03, followed by close friend Mike Gillam (13:48:41). Nunnari continued his stranglehold with a time of 9:17:48.
To keep up with the race and Johnson’s efforts, log on to www.challenge.ak.org