2024 Iron Dog - Day 1 Update

The start of todays 2024 Iron Dog race marks 40 years that racers have sped across the wild terrain of Alaska in hopes of a win. 

Going back in history we find that the first ever Iron Dog started on Tuesday, March 27th 1984.  Due to the late spring weather which caused some hazardous conditions on the southern part of the trail, the starting line was moved to McGrath, which is at mile 339 of the normal race course.  This meant that the first Iron Dog was a scant 746 miles.  This years race totals a staggering 2,503 from start to finish.

1984 Champions John Faeo & Rod Frank

Racing in pairs, 23 Pro Class teams left the starting chute in two-minute intervals beginning at 10AM followed by the Expedition Class teams following in their tracks.  Iron Dog Team 99, the Ambassador Team, left before the Pro-Class riders yesterday and are giving us some good info from the trail as they have already made it up and past McGrath.

Included in the Ambassador riders is 2017 Champion Cory Davis.  His father, Scott Davis, finished second in the first 1984 race and won the following year in 1985 (on a Yamaha) before retiring with 7 wins under his belt after the 2007 victory with Todd Palin.

Davis has reported some less than ideal trail conditions as they pressed onward toward Galena this morning.  Contrary to the record breaking snow in many parts of southcentral Alaska, there are parts of this trail which are clearly more suited to an ATV versus a sled, but this isn't typically out of the norm for this race.  Riders are sure to encounter all types of terrain to include snow, ice, water, and dirt...often for miles.

Rookie Team 34 (Kangas/Sommer) Training Run Farewell Burn roughly 2/7/24


Early racing shows familiar names at the front of the leaderboard to include Morgan, Conlon, Barber, Aklestad, Olstad, and the list goes on.  There are a lot of veteran racers near the front of the pack just over 200 miles into the race.  Overall the front teams will have finished about 10% of the entire trail distance in just about 5 hours of racing, averaging roughly 50mph.  

Leaving 9th out of the starting chute it appeared that Team 5 turned back toward Puntilla Lake shortly after leaving that location with an unconfirmed report of Kleewein taking a bad spill.  Reports are that the racer was in an airplane headed back toward Big Lake.  Update:  Kruz Kleewein commented on a Facebook post that 'Yeah I wadded my brains out and got my shoulder good. we will be back!'.  These two racers are 5-time Iron Dog veterans and aren't new to this endeavor, which goes to show you that every year is a brand new chance for anyone to draw either the long or short straw at any given time.

Team 39 stopped to help Team 5 after the injury reported above.  The amount of elapsed time for aid will be counted as a correction to their course time in McGrath.  We are wishing Kruz Kleewein a speedy recovery for his injured shoulder.

Other oddities on the trail show 2022 and 2023 race champions Tyler Aklestad and Nick Olstad, Team 7, as not moving on the trail for more than 30 minutes according to their GPS transponders.  Word gets around very quickly on this race and the potential of the team having an incident with a creek might be possible as two individuals are reporting, again unconfirmed, that they found themselves in some sort of water. Getting wet on a race like this is certainly not ideal, and neither is being stopped and not making progress this early in the race.

Team 49 is showing signs of trouble as well, not moving or making progress.  This is the first year that Klint VanWingerden and Todd Palin have both raced together but both racers have multiple thousands of race miles under their belts and if they can get back on track these two are always a solid chance for a strong finishing position.

As of about 4:00PM the front runners are well into 'breaking trail' through the Farewell Burn area.  Stan Morgan captured this aerial photo of Farewell Lake showing the incredibly low snow coverage in the entire area.

The day one goal for this field of racers is to get to McGrath as quickly as possible to declare a layover.  Anything short of this indicates and unplanned stop on the trail.  As indicated before, these unplanned stoppages haunted both Team 7 and Team 49 going into the water on the South Fork of the Kuskokwim river.  We are hearing that it took about 30 minutes to get Olstads sled started and it is believed that Team 49 had to tow back to Rohn/Tatinia to gather themselves and get back on the trail.  

These little hiccups can cause monumental upsets in the leaderboard and potentially the entire race itself.  We will be providing daily race updates, stay tuned for more!



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