Heading for the halfway point, racers continued to trickle into Nome last night after Team 10 of Morgan/Olds set the bar and pulled in yesterday afternoon at 4:38pm. As of just before 7am, 20 teams have their sleds piled up in the garage in Nome where some are leaving them with broken windshields, damaged radiators, and even missing skis. Once teams are back on the clock after 24 hours of rest, relaxation, and refueling the mind/body/equipment, repairs can begin as to straighten these sleds out for another 1000 mile pulse pounding ride back through the heart of some rugged country toward Fairbanks, Alaska.
Some of the carnage that made its way to Nome:
You can see in the above photo on the Father/Son team that Brad George was missing a windshield at the halfway point. His father, Andy, said that they looked like they were doing the Olympic Mogul run for the gold through the badly wind drifted snow. The GPS housing was flopping where the gear bag was supposed to be making steering difficult. They currently sit in 5th position.
Team 20 ran into ski problems about 20 miles out of White Mountain. They quickly bolted something on in hopes of a quick fix, but the bolt wore off and the ski was a gonner about 20 miles from Nome. John Faeo came in with only one ski to float the sled on the worst trail section that some of the veterans could ever remember. This is what the Iron Dog is made of. Riding that far along the Norton Sound with one ski is a testament to rider endurance and also the reliability and strength of modern snowmobile engineering…incredible.
Tyson Johnson and Tyler Aklestad of Team 8 pulled into Nome in a VERY impressive 9th position even after Aklestad, along with his Ski-Doo sled, took a dip in the frigid waters of the icy ocean. They quickly dried out (well, dried out enough I imagine), got back on the trail, and were passing teams as they charged toward a 24 hour break. On-scene personnel indicated that Aklestad was a bit chilled from being wet and were guessing that those split seconds surrounding him going through the sea-ice would not soon be forgotten. I have not heard any reports of damage or read anything indicating that the incident would leave them with any lasting troubles for the remainder of the race. There was a Ski-Doo rep on-site and was astounded that the machine was lifted out of the saltwater and continued to run 260 miles without any trouble. For people who saw Team 8 check into Nome, the machine really looked no worse for the wear. It was likely a close call and we are glad to see them safe and sound in Nome.
Team 17 (McKenna/VanMeter) have already completed inspections last night so they are ready to work once they are back on the clock this evening. It has been overheard that Marc and Dusty have some front end suspension work to iron out. During their allotted 15 minute inspections, Dusty spent time working the front right side of his Ski-Doo feeling for spring/bounce and ensuring nothing was leaking. We will see the extent of what ‘repair’ is needed later on. This duo is looking to defend their Championship title, actually looking for a three-peat win. They ran into troubles in Koyuk yesterday, also running into ski/carbine issues as time ticked off the clock. A spectator with the same sled saw what was happening and volunteered the ski off of his own sled!! WOW!
When Chris Olds took off his helmet in Nome, his first words were “In all my years running the Iron Dog, that trail has to be the worst ever between White Mountain and Nome’. Mike Morgan has proposed to his partner to charge hard between White Mountain and Nome to secure the prize for fastest split time between the checkpoint and Olds replied with ‘Absolutely not….We have 22 minutes to protect and I intend to do just that”. When Simon of Team 7 took his helmet off, he also made mention that he “Never thought he would be so happy to see Nome!”. The same sentiment rung true with Team 6 and many of the other riders who followed. The trail was pounding the riders mile after mile, and if the vets are taken back by the rough trail conditions, just imagine how the rookies feel.
Regarding new information today, it will likely be mostly quiet as racers are going to be waiting it out. All teams have reached the coast with Team 33 (Fuller/Kinn) in the rear position making their way to Nome. All teams currently on the trail have all required layovers completed and will be pushing toward the halfway point for the better portion of the daylight hours. I would expect racers, barring any serious troubles, to be in Nome before 5:00, even before 4:00 if everything goes smoothly for them.
Team 15 appears to be the kind of team that stops and gives a man a ride 8 miles BACK into Galena at 40 below zero. Making time in a race is never more important than someones well being, reported Danielle Gallagher on a Facebook update.
Team 10 is in the drivers seat, both literally and figuratively. With roughly 1000 miles to go, anything can happen. Stay tuned.