Undoubtedly, year after year, an Iron Dog participant pits itself against each and every racer, making life difficult for even the most seasoned veterans in the worlds longest race of this type. This participant isn't riding an Arctic Cat, Skidoo, Polaris...or even a Yamaha, but is Mother Nature herself. Be it forty below zero temps, whiteout trail conditions, flat light, or intense blizzards, Mother Nature can turn a race of skill into a serious safety concern rapidly, especially in Alaska. Just after 12:00PM, Iron Dog race officials made this post to their Facebook page, detailing an unprecedented 30 hour race hold, due to weather. This means that for many of these teams, fatigue and tiring of the body is going to be replaced with anxious waiting and boredom as they wait, and wait...and wait. First, the teams woke up to tons of fresh snow which was causing white-out conditions, but that hazard has been replaced with what high-winds have brought in, which is large amounts of ice pushed up into the sloughs, causing ice dams, cracks, shelves, and other hazards along anything that was previously frozen flat. The wind also brought in large amounts of water which was proven by a text message sent to Rebecca Charles by Frank Doty in Unalakleet. Note the trail markers going through the water in the photo below. Ice Hazards Caused by High Winds Fresh snow in Unalakleet this morning Unalakleet Water and Ice Hazards This morning Team 7 left McGrath on a torrid pace after they had a bit of a rough day yesterday having to make some trail repairs to one of their sleds. While it isn't clear exactly what happened on the trail, Aaron Bartel found himself bucked over the handlebars of hisSki-Doo MXZ X-RS 600. The sled proceeded to run him over, fracturing his femur. The racers attempted to ride back to McGrath, but it was far too painful for Bartel, forcing them to go to Ophir to call in for a medevac. The latest team forced from the race was Team 34 Collins/Jones who had some trouble with a water crossing and sank one of their sleds. The racers had already been fighting mechanical issues with the other machine before this incident (details of which can be seen in the photo below), which made the decision for them that their race was done. The water/ice hazard that caused Team 34 to scratch from the race gave problems to other racers as well. Explanation of scratch from Collins of Team 34 Racing up toward the coast, where racers are on hold, at one point Team 8 Aklestad/Johnson had a 12 minute lead over Team 10 Morgan/Olds. That lead shrank to roughly four minutes once the teams reached Kaltag and in Unalakleet they are still right at about 5 minutes apart. Team 6 Schachle/George is just under a half-hour behind the top two teams, rounding out the third place position. There was a lot of fast racing today and with the top 10 teams being within three hours of the leaders means that one wrong turn, a slightly bad judgement call on the trail, or a mechanical problem could mean you seeing dozens of sleds pass you while you sort out your issues.
Team 22 Ashley & Rachel, the only ladies in the pro-class this year, broke a jackshaft on one of their Polaris machines last night. The duo successfully towed to Galena and made the necessary repairs. They arrived in Unalakleet just before 1PM in 22nd position. If you've ridden a snowmachine in Alaska for any length of time, it is likely that you've encountered moose, probably a few caribou, maybe even a porcupine on the trail, among other wildlife that happen to be in your path. What I haven't seen before, but is more common than one would think, is an Iron Dog racer taking Alaska's state bird to the face at 75mph, which is what happened to Paul Sindorf sometime yesterday leaving him with a big black eye and a trail tale to share with the other racers. Paul Sindorf sporting a massive black eye from a collision with a ptarmigan at 75mph. Photo courtesy Erica L. Frankson of Galena, AK
The aftermath of hitting a flying ptarmigan at 75mph! Tomorrow morning the Iron Dog race officials will make a determination as to whether they will restart the race or continue to hold racers in Unalakleet for safety purposes. In the meantime, brush up on the leaderboard here and see where your favorite racing duo is stacking up against the rest of the crowd!February 2018, Kyle Moffat
Team 33 went in the water as well, but this particular incident was the last straw for team 34.
Kyle April 17, 2021
Team 34? yet it says 33 on the windshield?
Ben Kleinenberg April 17, 2021