Stopped in Unalakleet. This is what we saw for the majority of the morning. Racers getting some rest and patiently waiting for the gate to open so they can continue their quest to Nome.
Teams 18-23 have made it into Unalakleet and have declared their 8 hour layover, with the exception of Team 30. Conner/Vaughn have taken the lead position. Not on paper, but physically speaking by blowing straight through both Unalakleet and Koyuk on their way to White Mountain, where they will take their second mandatory 8 hour layover. This mandatory layover definitely puts them back quite a few slots in real positioning, but leading the pack must feel good anyways!
The teams left Unalakleet right on cue, racing up the coast toward Nome. For a brief second, it had appeared that Team 8 (Aklestad/Johnson) had taken the lead position, actually riding between the racers in Team 17 (who had previously overtaken Team 10). The biggest news from the edge of the ocean is that the machine ridden by Tyler Aklestad had broken through the sea-ice in some form or fashion. Both riders and machines are safe and sound (though a little wet) in Shaktoolik according to their fan-page on Facebook. According to GPS updates, Team 8 had been stopped for some time along the trail near Beeson Slough, so that may have been where the incident occurred. As of 4:00pm, they are back on the trail!
The GPS was pinging away, painting a pretty wild picture of teams passing each other and making a few position changes on the way to Koyuk. This goes to show that you never know what might happen with equipment/crashes/weather/trail conditions/etc. to go from possibly leading the pack to scratching within a few seconds time.
Reports are also turning up that Team 2 may have run into some equipment failure as well. Apparently one of their Polaris sleds has suffered a broken spindle. The last update at around 2:30pm did show Ryan Sottosanti travelling around 45mph though, so keep your fingers crossed for safety regarding Team 2. Not forgetting the teams battling it out near the back of the pack, I’m reading reports that Team 26, who have checked into Ruby at 10:30 this morning to declare an 8 hour layover, had to almost do a complete motor swap on the trail and are sticking it out. Way to stick it out, guys!
Team 10 is back in the lead position right now and looking very good. They were the first team with all completed layovers to check thorugh Koyuk at 1:33pm and are SEVERAL miles ahead of the next racers which was Team 17 (McKenna/VanMeter) who may have stopped for maintenance or something as they checked out a full 21 minutes behind. As of checking through Koyuk, the top 5 teams (on paper) were within about an hours time of one another.
The second pro-class team to cross the White Mountain checkpoint was none other than Team 10 (in first position on paper) at 3:16pm, stopping long enough to get what they needed and then bolting toward Nome. They will be the first team to set a pace for the $3,000 prize for fastest team from White Mountain to Nome. Meanwhile, both Teams 41 and 16 had overtaken Team 17 and were trailing by roughly 35-40 miles from the lead position.
Speeds today certainly weren’t in the sustained 75mph category as I’m guessing the conditions on the coast might not be as conducive to the high speed as the Yukon River was. The front runners were running more along the lines of 45-50 mph for much of the day. I did ping Andy George of Team 6 at 74mph though on Golovnin bay just before arriving in White Mountain. Speeds definitely picked up when the riders were nearing Nome though. Team 41 clocked in near the 81mph mark, likely having an ‘end’ in sight pushing them a bit faster.
INTO NOME! Morgan and Olds have made it to the halfway point of the race, arriving into Nome just before 4:38pm in first place. Here they will spend the next 24 hours before heading back down the coast and up the Yukon River toward Fairbanks. Its still a SUPER tight race as the top 4 teams making their way to Nome are separated by less than 1 hour. Many other teams will continue to trickle in for their much needed 24 hour rest. Team 30 will be completed with their 8 hour layover by about 10:30 tonight, trying to make Nome before midnight.
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