Iron Dog snowmachines throw up snow that can make it tough to see, especially when it gets windy.
(Bill Roth / Alaska Dispatch News)
Halfway home. Cue the wrenches.
The leaders of the Iron Dog snowmachine race pulled into Nome on Tuesday for a day of rest, recuperation and repair before heading east toward the Fairbanks finish line Thursday morning.
Once again, the two top teams were close. Nick Olstad and Todd Minnick of Wasilla reached town first, pulling in at 3:27 p.m. Fifteen minutes later, defending champions Tyler Aklestad and Tyson Johnson arrived.
From the Big Lake start of the world's longest and toughest snowmachine race, one of these two teams has led the way.
Minnick, 37, in his 15th Iron Dog, is happy to be indoors. After a Big Lake start he called "extremely warm," temperatures have plunged.
By the time he and Olstad reached Rohn after crossing the Alaska Range, it was below zero. When they left the Interior town of McGrath on Monday, it was minus 42 and the gas pumps on their Polaris machines were freezing up. By Ophir, it was minus 52. By Unalakleet on the Norton Sound coast, the temperatures had climbed, but the wind was blowing hard.
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Meanwhile, caches of food (for canines and humans) have been flown and deposited at checkpoint stations all along this year's northern Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race.
The ceremonial start in Anchorage will be Saturday, March 4. The official re-start will be Monday, March 6, in Fairbanks. The starting point was changed to provide better trail conditions. The northern route bypasses an Interior passage through an area with little snow cover.