Airman participates in Fireweed 400

Tech. Sgt. Jason B. Patton
Aviano Air Base

***image1***The Fireweed 400 is a bike race across 400 miles of great Alaskan wilderness with over 28,000 vertical feet of elevation gained throughout the course. It is considered by many to be the most challenging cycling event anywhere in the world. It is a torturous battle against bone-chilling wind and freezing rain that requires riders with just the right mix of unmatched determination, an absolute passion for bike racing, and the slightest hint of clinical madness.

One of the riders who finished the race was Tech. Sgt. Les Handy, who is assigned to the 435th Medical Squadron at Ramstein.

Handy traveled to Alaska for the sole purpose of competing in the Fireweed 400 in an attempt to qualify for the 3,000 mile Race Across America later this year.

On July 9, Handy displayed true character by finishing the grueling 400 miles in a time of 28 hours and 18 minutes – with two 15-minute pauses and a 30-minute break as his only occasions to rest.

Handy is known among his cycling friends as a serious long distance rider, having ridden his bike across the United States on more than one occasion.
When asked afterwards what he thought of the 400 mile race in blizzard conditions, he replied, “You know … doing a 400 mile race is stupid; 100 miles is just about perfect.”

Handy’s incredible feat was only possible with round-the-clock support from his close friends Dave Sewall and Dave’s father Sam Sewall. The two men followed in a support vehicle just behind Handy continuously passing him everything from miniature bagels to peanuts in an attempt to keep him fueled and awake.

From 2003 to 2005, Handy and Dave rode bikes together while stationed at Aviano Air Base, Italy.

Dave’s first reaction when Handy requested his support was one of joking relief.  

“I was glad because I was planning to do the 50 mile cruiser race and had an excuse not to do it then.”  But in a true reflection of his devotion to the job, Dave later admitted, “I know he’d do the same for me if I asked.”