Resting, repairing, and recovery. Day 4 of the Iron Dog usually means an overdue rest for the racers as they've traveled well over 1,000 miles to get to the halfway point in this race.
In Nome, racers will be on a mandatory layover a bit longer than the prior years 24 hours where they will hold a racers banquet, an inspection of their machines, and then perform any repair and maintenance they deem necessary before an 7am departure the following day. Each team will be given a 15 minute inspection period which is 'off the clock'. This allows the racers to get a repair list together to determine what they need, what tools they need, and come up with a game-plan to be as efficient as possible during repairs. Once they are ready to perform repairs, all of that time will be added to their trail time, which could affect the positioning of the pack.
As the first three teams pulled in to Nome yesterday, it was as if you took the front-runners from the 2019 race, put them in a bag, shook them up, and pulled them out again, paired with a new racing partner. The cream always rises to the top and this scene is no different. Teams 1, 2, and 3 all came in riding Ski-Doo. Teams 4, 5, and 6 all came in riding their Polaris sleds.
While Team 7 (Aklestad/Olstad) did pull into Nome a fair bit ahead of the second team to arrive, there is still less than an hour separating the 2nd and the 6th position in this race. Depending on how the on-clock repairs/maintenance goes, we could see some shifting in the leader-board come mid-day tomorrow.
Arguably the more challenging part of this race is still to come, and we have already seen lots of chatter on Facebook about snow and trail conditions from Ruby south through Poorman and Ophir and on toward McGrath. The locals are reporting an immense amount of freshly fallen snow and no trail for several hundred miles. There has talk about locals going out with long track machines to break trail before the racers arrive, but nobody is sure how any of that will pan out. A similar story is shaping up further south through the Alaska Range and on toward the finish line. Dumping snow on the north and south side of Puntilla Lake and all the way to the finish line. As teams get farther south of Puntilla Lake, the trails will be open mainly due to the fact that locals use them for daily transportation but from the Farewell Burn toward Shell Lake, racers may have a rough time on what may be largely an unbroken trail.
The Iron Dog board president Roger Brown was fitted with both a GPS tracker and a Skidoo Skandic super wide track sled to help begin the break-in process in galena headed to Poorman and then south toward Ophir. You can follow Rodgers progress on the main GPS tracking page.
Team 49 ran into trouble on the way to Nome yesterday. This is normally a solid running team and seeing them slow on the GPS likely meant some sort of mechanical issue. It was confirmed that they experienced a broken and bound up chain in the chain-case on one of their Polaris machines which forced them to tow into Nome. In a case of good luck, the towing machine ran out of gas just as they reached the checkpoint!
As of writing, 13 teams have been forced from the race while 16 teams are still in the running for the top prize. With the weather, snowfall, and known trail conditions south of Kaltag toward the finish, we do expect to see the amount of teams on the leaderboard to continue to dwindle as the miles to the finish dwindle as well.
Just after 4PM, the last team to arrive to Nome were the boys from rural Manitoba. The Canadians lost a considerable amount of trail time by taking a wrong turn on the new northern loop but stuck with it and has safely made it to the halfway point.