Update #10 It's OVER!As expected, Team 8 ‘TnT’ pulled across the finish line to complete what was a long-time coming for both riders. In Tyler Aklestad’s 13th and Tyson Johnsons 18th Pro-Class Iron Dog race, they’ve claimed the top spot. At the finish line Tyson spoke into the mic and said ‘It’s about time!’ Putting 2,031 miles on their Ski-Doo sleds across Alaska while averaging 57mph is worthy of a 1st place finish! [caption id="attachment_5699" align="aligncenter" width="600"] Tyler Aklestad's biggest fan...his son![/caption]
Congratulations to Team #8 Tyler Aklestad and Tyson Johnson Iron Dog 2016 Champions. #alaska #fairbanks #irondog #irondograce #irondog2016 Posted by Iron Dog on Saturday, February 27, 2016
Team 14 and 33 in Posted by Team Barber Racing on Saturday, February 27, 2016
Update #9 Flying to Fairbanks!It’s all Team 8, and with trouble brewing for those behind them, its likely we will see them be first to see the waving checkered flag in Fairbanks. It appeared that Team 8 had maintained their lead as they checked into Manley at 9:05, just 65 minutes after leaving Tanana putting their split at just under 64mph, which isn’t anything terribly crazy. Team 6, however, towed into Manley where it appears that Robbie Schachle had motor issues between checkpoints. We’re also hearing that Brad George may have wrecked on the trip as well. Apparently these issues weren’t terrible since the latest update as of 11:15am showed them checked out of Manley, only losing ground to Team 16 Minnick/Olstad. Rules state that machines must leave checkpoints under their own power, so the racers must have gotten their SkiDoo machines fixed up enough to leave under their own power. It appears that in the video on the Iron Dog page that the tow rope is being carried and they hooked up to tow right after leaving the checkpoint. Starting the race with 41 Pro-Class teams, the trail has claimed 17 teams in total. With nearly 60% of the teams still on the trail, this is actually a bit more than typical, when it isn’t uncommon for half of the entire field to have to call it quits. With mild temperatures and good running conditions, the racers were expected to complete the remaining 291 miles of river running in what is almost always 4.5 hours. The name of the game here is to protect your machines, make up as much ground on the teams ahead of you, if possible, or if you’re Team 8, survive until the finish. Out of Nenana, they’re holding onto that 38 minute lead in front of Team 16. Not much has happened in the way of position changes short of the #2 spot, with the exception of household Iron Dog names Faeo/McKenna of Team 20 scratching out after Tanana. I don’t have any information as to what happened, but with as many motor issues that we’ve seen this year, that would be my guess. We can expect the first place team to arrive at the finish line in approximately one hour! Stay tuned!
Update #8 Maintaining and HustlingIt’s a sprint up the trail as Team 8 appears to be holding a lead that is buffering just over a half hour between them and Brad George and Robby Schachle of Team 6. Team 8 appeared to be cruising along, conserving their sleds, playing it like true veterans. Team 6 has their work cut out for them and know they need to make up time.
Between Nome and White Mountain earlier this morning. Video from Blue Mountain Lodge Posted by Iron Dog Team 21 - Brown/Dean on Thursday, February 25, 2016
Leaving Nome! Posted by Gundersen/Norum Iron Dog Team #28 on Thursday, February 25, 2016
Here's to our sponsors... Posted by Iron Dog Team 12 on Monday, February 22, 2016
Update #7 Flying Down the Coast!Just how far apart are these teams? Well, the leaderboard was shook up a bit with all the wrenching going on in the Nome garage. Harriett Fenerty reports that in some cases there were 75 minutes (or more) used to make necessary repairs to get the sleds in shape for another brutal beating across Alaska, which is like riding from Big Lake to Skwentnta all over again…without burning a drop of fuel! This is where the strategy (and luck) of keeping your equipment in shape pays off…handsomely. Rested, repaired, and ready to race, Team 8 was given the green light to leave Nome at 8:00AM, leading the pack as they head South on the coast with a 43 minute lead. Not wasting any time, they were already 15 miles out of Nome and pinging over 70mph down the coast. The forecast called for light overcast and partially clear skies. With great weather the teams were thought to possibly push a bit farther than they normally would have but as of 3:30pm, the front-runners are holed up in Kaltag on a 10 hour layover. Many of the other teams pulled up a bit short and decided to take their 10 hours in Unalakleet . There is always a balance between pushing it hard but not riding too long to become exhausted. Team 6 and Team 16 were traveling in each other’s snow-dust heading down the coast. Imagine the light overcast with 4 machines running 30 seconds apart going 80+mph facing into a hazy sun. A slight lapse in concentration and it could be over. In 2012, Shane Barber was leading his partner along the same conditions. At about 90mph, Shane hit a snow drift that he couldn’t see, bucking him off the sled, right into the path of his partner. Not seeing him in time, Shane was run over by his teammate at a speed in excess of 60mph. Shane suffered a broken leg and ribs, along with other internal injuries, a stark contrast to his running mate thinking he had killed him. Shane took a couple years off the race but is now back at it and as fast as ever. Team 20 was caught on camera by Keith Manternach and John Woodbury and got some great aerial footage of the racers flying down the trail. The airplane has a ground speed of 122 mph, and you can get a feel for how fast the riders are pushing their machines.
Some great footage courtesy of - Keith Manternach & John Woodbury | Alaska SnowRider Magazine. #alaska #alaskalife #irondog #irondograce #irondog2016 Posted by Iron Dog on Wednesday, February 24, 2016
Team 9Team 9 Koyuk SB gas and go to UNK. First LO of 10 hours must be completed no later than KAL. The second 10 hour LO can be done in GAL or Ruby. All LO must be completed before teams go to TAN tomorrow.#irondog2016 #irondograce #koyuk #alaska #team9 Posted by Iron Dog on Thursday, February 25, 2016
Update #6 Wrenching and RestingAs of 9:26AM on Wedneday morning, the entire fleet of Pro-Class Teams have made it to the halfway point in Nome, Alaska. Team 8 of Aklestad/Johnson on their SkiDoo sleds were first to pull into Nome, while Team 26 Beech/Armstrong arrived in Nome on their Arctic Cat’s 17 hours and 52 minutes later. We interviewed Team 26 before the race and have been bummed to see them get hit with such a heavy dose of bad luck on the trail. Via the team’s Facebook, an update says: Team 8 put up an impressive 1,108 mile run in just 14 minutes more than 21 hours. Literally the only way you could get to Nome any faster is by air. With an average of more than 50mph, these top few teams are really putting on a show. 11 teams have now officially scratched from the race. This is just over ¼ of the entire field of racers having to throw in the proverbial towel at only the halfway mark. I’m sure the level of disappointment is at an all-time high for some of these guys. We’ve talked about this before in our podcast, but preparations for this race last nearly a year, cost tens of thousands of dollars, and untold man-hours riding/practicing/wrenching/fixing/practicing some more, and the list goes on. These teams have sacrificed a lot physically, emotionally, and financially to run this race that almost only pays accolades and street-cred after you zero your balance with the winnings. Families all across Alaska (and beyond) have gone all-in for their racers and it’s important to keep recognizing these teams for their efforts, despite what has happened on this incredibly tough trail. I know I couldn’t do this race, and my hat is off to those who try. Well done, gentlemen. Team 25 Bogert/Keim had to throw in the towel and gave us this information via their Team Facebook page:
Included in the 11 total scratches in the race so far, the Arctic Cat riders on Team 22 posted:
Team 6 tearing into their Ski-Doos Posted by Iron Dog on Wednesday, February 24, 2016
Team 4 on the clock Posted by Iron Dog on Wednesday, February 24, 2016
Update #5 Race to Nome!As of 3pm, Team 8 Aklestad/Johnson were a mere 50 miles from Nome, with nobody in the rear-view mirror. They could have towed the rest of that distance and likely still claimed the $10,000 prize for reaching the halfway mark before the rest of the pack. Johnson said the plan was to ‘Make everybody try to catch us. We don’t want to push our machines too hard, and we don’t want a chance of breaking something…’ It appears that their training run to Nome is certainly paying off. Teams 16, 6, 10, and 20 are still VERY much nwithin the realm of chipping away at this lead and with the race only halfway over, the fat lady isn’t even out of the dressing room yet. With an oft- battered coast to travel back down, miles of rough overland terrain, and a dash up the frozen interior rivers, anything could happen. With all that talk yesterday about the Polaris machines appearing to out-pace the ETEC motors in the SkiDoo sleds, it looks like the teams riding yellow are certainly holding their own, if not a touch faster on the coast. Obviously there are a ton of factors that can come into play when looking at GPS readings, but for now they’re absolutely flying. As far as happenings on the coast, it looks like Team 17 ran into trouble shortly after checking out of Unalakleet North. The team traveled about 5 miles and returned to the checkpoint. The tracker data told us that there was likely something wrong with Gueco’s sled as VanMeter was in the lead position and had to turn around to where his partner’s machine was stopped. As of 3:30pm they were back on the trail and whatever was ailing them before must have been sorted out. **Update: it has been confirmed that Gueco snapped a rear torque arm on his SkiDoo, causing them to turn around. So far we have had 8 teams scratch to include some front-running favorites such as Team 41 Davis/Simons and Team 2 Sottosanti/Zwink. The field of scratched sleds is split half and half between Polaris and Arctic Cat. The rumor mill is telling us that Team 41 blew the chain and gears on one of their Arctic Cat sleds, which took out the chaincase as well. They blew the motor and had a badly leaking oil injector. They scrambled to get parts and once they were off layover, they worked for 5 hours pulling and rebuilding the motor, sorting out the oil leak, and swapping the chaincase. In the end, they decided to throw in the towel and try it again next time. The team is very disappointed and an update from their Facebook page states: “Sad to say that team #41 had to scratch early this morning due to a couple of major mechanical issues. We all pulled an all-nighter trying scramble parts... But they decided it was best to bow out. These boys are tough and we're supportive of all their efforts - good luck to all of the teams still out there! #irondog2016” We don’t have any concrete information as to what caused Team 2 to crash or what the condition of their sleds were in after they declared a scratch from the race, but all we have seen is that their team was looking for a coolant bottle for their Arctic Cat, hoping someone in McGrath would have one. The crash must have done enough damage to take out the coolant bottle underneath the hood of the machine. Coupling mechanical damage with maybe even a few bumps and bruises is likely what was causing them to travel at about half the speed of the front runners the previous day. Sottosanti is normally able to keep up with the fastest teams on the trail, so this is certainly out of character for them.
Team 28 heading to Nome Posted by Iron Dog on Tuesday, February 23, 2016
Roping up Posted by Iron Dog on Tuesday, February 23, 2016
Nome the hard way Posted by Iron Dog on Tuesday, February 23, 2016
Update #4 Speed on ICE!Speed, but not speed alone begins to separate the pack of Pro-Class racers in the 2016 Iron Dog. Speed, coupled with consistency is where you start to see teams create distance from each other. McGrath looked like a snowmachine sales lot with all of the racers machines lined up in neat rows, staged in what is referred to as the ‘impound lot’, ready to be fired up and ridden on the merciless trail for several hundred more miles. Overall the fleet of machines looked in as good of shape as you would expect for this far into the longest/toughest snowmobile race on earth, and some carnage certainly found its way into the races of a few teams. Team 11 Palin/Barber ran into shock trouble yesterday when the cap of Shane’s sled came unscrewed. The team was able to get it back together and on the trail where they limped it to Puntilla and declared layover, waiting for the parts plane. Weather prevented the plane from delivering the parts and they were forced to limp the machine another 200 miles to McGrath where parts were waiting, burning up 6 hours of layover in the process. We mentioned in the last update where Cody Barber of Team 14 ran across a tree in the trail just before Nikolai. The tree hit him in the face, knocking him off his sled, and the machine flew off into the trees, tearing off the whole front side of his Polaris. He was able to ride the machine without an entire right ski for 75 miles! Team 39 had a similar fate, though we don't know exactly what they hit to cause the damage. Team 48 hit a rock coming out of Puntilla and forced them to make field expedient repairs to the upper/lower control arms of the machine. This is certainly what caused them to slow down for an hour or so yesterday during great daylight racing hours. The aforementioned speed and consistency is what stretched Team 8 Aklestad/Johnson’s lead as they dashed for the coast, passing up what would have commonly been an 8 hour layover checkpoint. Second out of McGrath today was Team 6 of Brad George (son of Iron Dogger Andy George, whom he raced with several years prior) and rookie racer Robby Schachle. Known locally as being a natural talent on anything motorized, and especially a sled, Robby is a rider who can take on a feat like this race nearly in stride. Just over two weeks ago, he flew to Michigan, climbed on a sled he had never seen before, made 300 out of the 500 laps in the I500, and boosted his racing partners positioning from 37th to 12th. The guy can flat ride, and these early stages of the race are proving this to be true.
Team 8 is ready roll out as the first team to leave McGrath. Departure time is 10:53:32 this morning. Posted by Iron Dog on Monday, February 22, 2016
Although the Yukon River is generally flat and fast, there are intermittent sections of tangled ice. We are taking it super easy, but the pro guys will be flying through here!#irondog2016 Posted by Rebecca Charles on Monday, February 22, 2016
This is the burn and "the glacier"... one of my favorite spots on the trail. A neat little climb up a glacier in the middle of the Farewell Burn. #irondog2016 Posted by Rebecca Charles on Sunday, February 21, 2016
Team 36 first in to McGrath. Posted by Iron Dog on Sunday, February 21, 2016
Update #2 They’re OFF!Butterflies had to be fluttering in the stomach’s of the racers as they waited in the chute for their turn to leave the starting line. Every two minutes a team left the chute until all 41 teams were on their way.
Annnnnnd they're off!!! Praying for a safe and fast race for all these guys! Let's go team 33! #irondog2016 Posted by Iron Dog Team Conner/Koontz on Sunday, February 21, 2016