Airplanes buzzing overhead, bass lines thumping over a loud speaker, and the familiar 'raaap' and scent of two-stroke engines being warmed and readied by racers in the 2018 Iron Dog. Twenty eight Pro-Class teams rounded off the field as they crossed over the starting line in this years race to Fairbanks, via Nome as a halfway point. Overcast skies, a building snowstorm, and flat light met the racers as they exploded out of the starting chute to begin the most grueling snowmobile race on the face of the earth. For the next 7 days, these racers will fight sub-zero temperatures, dangerous trail conditions, likely open water crossing overflow, rivers, lakes and even the ocean, dark and treacherous trails, and who knows what else over more than 2,000 miles of remote Alaskan terrain. Team 34 leaves the starting line of the 2018 Iron Dog. Photo courtesy of Bruce Nelson Standing out in this crowd is the only team of women consisting of Ashley Wood and Rachel Kidwell. Both of these ladies have untold experience riding machines (and you've heard Rachel on our podcast before covering previous races and giving us her perspective on running the trail-class). It seem that every year, the proverbial cream rises to the top but it seems that the household names in the Iron Dog are already positioning themselves in the upper echelon of the leaderboard. The leaders made extremely good time up through the Alaska range an on towards the Rohn checkpoint. The aforementioned flurries at the starting line has built into a significant snowstorm as the racers moved through the mountains, but most of them should be out through it by later this evening. After last years disqualification debacle that had emotions running high, threats of abandonment and boycotting the race, it appears as though Team 8 Aklestad/Johnson are proving to be the fastest team on the trail at this point. The golden boys of the Iron Dog started 14th and are currently in 3rd position just before Rohn. If they don't run into any major mechanical problems or face a serious crash, we should see those guys move right to the front across the Farewell Burn and into McGrath this evening. With dozens of races notched into the belts of this team, along with untold THOUSANDS of racing miles, Tyler and Tyson (TnT as the fans call them) are certainly still a force to be reckoned with....especially with the bad taste of last years disqualification left in their mouth. They likely feel like they've got a bone to pick and are looking to position themselves early in this race. A recent photo of the roughly 50 mile stretch of the Farewell Burn that racers battled. Two teams (Team 3 on Arctic Cat and Team 18 riding for team Ski-Doo) have scratched from the pro-class field and their 2018 Iron Dog has ended almost as fast as it began. Its really tough to see teams scratch so early in the race as we all know the months of dedication it takes along with the thousands of dollars invested, but as this race is so dynamic, it could happen to almost anyone at anytime. As the miles accumulate on these machines and the trail takes its toll, you can certainly expect the pile of scratched teams to slowly accumulate, hopefully not due to personal injury. Racers fuel their machines at the Puntilla Lake checkpoint, mile 140 of 2000. Reports from our 'Iron Dog Oracle' are that team 20 ran out of fuel before Skwentna. Chad Gueco's Ski-Doo MXZ-XRS 600 ran out of fuel, forcing teammate Scott Faeo to continue on to Skwentna, grabbed a jug of fuel, then headed back to get Chad. They dumped the fuel in only to figure out it was diesel and not gasoline. Not sure where Scott got the diesel from but this is a very unfortunate event as this duo consitenly hold their own in the top of the heap, and is now on a layover in Skwetna...in dead last. Those that follow the race closely every year are raising an eyebrow as they are seeing an unprecedented amount of teams pushing through he Alaska range, seeing as many teams bunched up near the front of the pack as they've ever seen this early in the race. The front 3-4 teams are through Nikolai headed to McGrath. In McGrath everyone will be taking a layover. After every racing team has checked into McGrath, the course times will be corrected based upon the starting time intervals and the racers will be shown in their actual position. From what I we can tell, it looks like Team 8 will be the race leaders once their time corrections are all figured out. By early calculations it appears that there are at least 10 teams within 30 minutes of the leaders. This has been a very fast pace to McGrath, possibly even a record pace. The McGrath checkpoint. Mile 362 of 2000. Racers are staring down 27 degree temperatures. This is ABOVE zero. Normally in this part of the race headed toward McGrath, racers are welcomed with temps dipping the mercury past 40 below zero, morphing the slightest inconvenience on the trail into a potentially life threatening situation as these racers are largely without much assistance and are sometimes hundreds of miles from help or the next checkpoint. This is really warm for the history of the race, and I can't imagine that these guys aren't enjoying it! A contrast to the warm interior weather, the western coast of Alaska is brewing a massive storm to greet the frontrunners as they make their way up the Yukon River. This could force front-runners to break snow and blaze a trail for their peers as they battle up the coast. The cost of breaking trail is increased fuel consumption, which on some portions of this trail, could be a big deal for some teams. We plan to continue updating this race on a daily basis so stay tuned for continued coverage!