Friday usually marks one of the faster days racing the Iron Dog, and this year was no exception. Once racers leave the Kaltag checkpoint, they barrel up the frozen Yukon River and the race turns into more of a sprint versus the first half of the race which forces the racers through the Alaska range, over hundreds of miles of moguls, ditches, creek crossings, logs in the trail, and a myriad of other obstacles.
Racing on frozen river ice doesn't mean the racers are void of any hazards along the way, and Team 20 knows that better than any other team for this year. Fighting to repair a broken A-Arm in Koyuk, Scott Faeo and Robby Schachle got their Ski-Doo machines back in working order only to leave the checkpoint and sustain another wreck which left Faeo's machine with yet another broken A-Arm. Its been reported that Faeo was in a fair bit of pain after he shared a post on Facebook stating that he hit two ice-shelves. Despite pressing on to Unalakleet, they decided to call it quits there.
Team 30 was running exceptionally smoothly all day yesterday before running into a snag just before Kaltag as well. Blake and Kyle give a bit of the detail in the video below on their day before one of their machines was stuck in '10 Mile Creek' vertically in hip-deep water.
The run from Kaltag, where many of the racers took a 10 hour layover, started a half hour past midnight when Team 10 was the first to lead a 313 mile charge up the river toward Manley, arriving at 5:05am. It seems that this long stretch of river running was relatively uneventful for the front-runners as Team 14 and Team 49 arrived at that checkpoint 43 minutes and 3 hours 23 minutes behind the leaders, respectively.
Due to a seemingly bizarre, but not terribly uncommon, layover choice from Team 6, the leaderboard is a bit out of whack and its hard to tell who is in the closest position to try and catch Mike Morgan and Chris Olds of Team 10. All three front-runners (Teams 10, 14, and 6) had left Kaltag and made the one-hour trip to Galena, all arriving within roughly 20 minutes of each other. Teams 10 and 14 pressed onward in the dark and ran for a few hours and made it all the way to Manley several hundred miles down trail.
When Team 6 got to Galena they knew they were making good time and they actually closed the gap significantly on the second place team. Team 6 ran the section from Kaltag to Galena 10 minutes faster than Team 14 and 1 minute faster than the race leaders. They knew this when they entered the checkpoint because they are allowed to ask the checkers for details on the teams in front of them. They had just come off a 10 hour layover, rode for 1 hour, then declared another 10 hour layover. We will see how this decision plays out.
Continuing on the topic of Team 6, the Iron Dog Oracle offers up this: "Another very interesting thing about Team 6. They thought they blew up a motor entering Koyuk on the Norton Sound. They messed around for 20+ minutes before they realized the motor wasn't seized it was the primary clutch that seized and it had grabbed the belt so tight it stopped the motor and you couldn't even pull the motor over with the starter rope. After dinking around for 20 minutes they decided it was just the clutch. Eye witnesses report that they removed the seized weights, ramps and rollers out of the clutch and it freed right up and the motor started. They decided to "unscratch" and get back in the race. Here's where it gets weird. They are running a primary with 1/3 of the weights out of it. You would think the motor would over-rev and vibrate and just be all mixed up but they have been running nearly 100MPH the whole way down the coast. They were one of the fastest teams from Nome to Kaltag. Even with their 20-30 minute delay in Koyuk they made time on the teams in front of them. No one can point to a time when they changed the primary and the locals in Koyuk said they left with a primary that was missing 1/3 of it's important parts. How the heck are they able to go so fast with a primary so messed up?" On one of the live videos you could also hear them say they didn't have a clutch puller. Shortly after in the video you can also hear Brad George say 'Let's see if we can make it to Kaltag'.
Team 10 is the last team in the race that has Iron Dog champions in it. Chris Olds has won the race three times while his partner Mike Morgan has also stepped on top of the first place podium once as well. Short of that, Tyson Johnson, Tyler Aklestad, Todd Minnick, Nick Olstad, and Scott Faeo have all scratched from the race.
Just 14 teams remain in the race and given the dynamic nature of running snowmachines for more than 2,000 miles at break-neck speed, anything could happen.
Your coverage is awesome,,,thanks!!