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Can a cyclist outrace a steam train? A unique Arizona contest seeks an answer

Join the bicycle race or ride the train in a September race from the Grand Canyon to Williams, Ariz.

If you think you can out-bike a vintage steam-engine train, sign up for the 2015 Man vs. Machine race from the Grand Canyon to the railway town of Williams, Ariz.

The 54-mile course presents a classic steam-and-muscle smackdown the likes of which hasn't been seen for 25 years.

Here's how it works: Riders pay $60 to $80 (depending on when they register) to enter the race and then are to show up, ready to roll, in Tusayan on the South Rim of the Grand Canyon at 1 p.m. on Sept. 26 

The course has cyclists following Arizona Highway 64 for 50 miles, gaining and losing more than 2,000 feet in elevation. They then will turn onto historic Route 66 for the last four miles.

The Grand Canyon Railway train, the 310-ton steam engine No. 4960 built in 1923, will hit the tracks at the same 1 p.m. start time. Passengers can ride the train and watch the race for $75 for adults and $45 for children 16 and younger.

Unlike the cyclists, train passengers should have a pretty luxe ride. They will be in Pullman coach class cars, a cafe car and a luxury parlor car. Everyone finishes at the historic depot in Williams.

So which is likely to win -- man or machine?

In 1991, 51 cyclists -- Wiatr Krzystof was the first -- beat the train in about two hours. Cyclists reached speeds of more than 40 mph while the train hit some rough spots in the tracks and slowed to 25 mph, according to an Associated Press article on the event.

Advance registration for the bike race and advance tickets for the train are recommended.

Info: 2015 Man vs Machine race registration; Grand Canyon Railway

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