Iron Doggers arrive in Nome
The Iron Dog snowmachine race’s Pro Class riders arrived in Nome just after 2:30 p.m. Monday afternoon under ideal weather conditions. Within three hours the first ten teams rolled into town, remarkable considering they’d traveled over one thousand miles through the Alaska wilderness. The first to arrive was Team 21, the Hale brothers Israel and Joseph, both of Palmer, but they were not actually leading the race as they had fewer layover hours accumulated than the other teams.
The next team in, only minutes behind Team 21, was Team 6, Brad George and Robby Schachle. They arrived as the race leaders. Brett Lapham and Zack Weisz of Team 5 were right on their heels. Then past winners Mike Morgan and Chris Olds arrived. The result was a near traffic jam on the highway as the racing sleds accumulated.
“The ride was good,” said Robby Schachle after removing his helmet. “It was nice and smooth. We ended up taking the ice and I think that’s where we made up the time. Everybody was going overland and we went out on the ice out of Koyuk. I think that’s where we ended up making most of our time.” He reported that they never saw open water, although it’s tough to see when down on the ice. Their strategy will stay the same as that which got them to Nome in first place. “After ten years, this is the first time I didn’t push,” said Schachle. “We were actually not planning on being the first in Nome. But here we are. So, we’re going to maintain the same strategy and if we need to push, we will. We’ll keep’er clean.”
Schachle said both he and teammate Brad George hit a creek going 65 or 70 mph. “I honestly have no idea how our sleds are still in one piece,” he said. “We both rode it out and other than that we’ve had a pretty clean run.”
Nome’s Mike Morgan and Team 10 partner Chris Olds arrived in third place. Morgan’s family was there to greet him, including a nephew with his ankle in a cast and his bare big toe protruding into the 6°F weather. Both riders and sleds appeared to be in primo condition except for a little trail weariness. “We hit ice,” said Morgan. “We hit a bump that was sideways in the trail and it launched us sideways.” Both went off the sleds. “We went for a wild ride. Other than that it was pretty good. The coast was really hard. Lots of snow but it’s really hard and unforgiving. The sleds don’t really like that kind of stuff. But I think all these guys were going through that.”
Morgan said he thinks the race is going to come down to saving the equipment, that the harsh trail conditions will take their toll before they cross the finish line in Big Lake. “We’ve just got to be safe,” said Morgan. “The coast is really hard, the snow is hard. It’s windblown and rough. We’re going to have to save our equipment. And then Kotzebue is probably got the same stuff going on there. It’s going to be a save the equipment race from here on out. These guys that are pushing hard, I don’t know man, hey might get lucky.”
Last year’s champions Team 7, Tyler Aklestand and Nick Olstad, scratched Monday morning after a mechanical problem just out of Unalakleet. They had a mechanical the first day and had made up time to join the lead pack by the Unalakleet layover. They are the third team to scratch, the first being Nome riders Jarvis and Jordan Miller. They scratched in Puntilla. Team 11, David Wagner and Eric Wellman, also scratched.
“It’s tight for sure,” said Mike Morgan. “We’re just trying to not make mistakes and keep our equipment together. We could see where those guys were pushing really hard. We’re only five minutes down so we’re pushing, too. But man, it’s going to get interesting in the second half. We’re going back to Big Lake this year, back through 500 miles of bumps from Ruby. Anything can happen, it’s anybody’s race.”
On Tuesday the riders were to spend the day resting and if needed working on their sleds in Nome’s Public Works garage. The garage is off-limits to the public because of COVID-19 restrictions.
The first ten teams into Nome with their times and average speed:
1. Team 6 George/ Schachle; 19:48:50; 51.18 mph
2. Team 5 Lapham/Weisz; 19:50:10; 51.12 mph
3. Team 10 Morgan/ Olds; 19:58:21; 50.77 mph
4. Team 14 Boylan / Leslie; 20:01:18; 50.65 mph
5. Team 12 Kleewein / Kleewein; 20:58:51; 48.33 mph
6. Team 49 Gumley / VanWingerden; 21:13:51; 47.76 mph
7. Team 39 Barber/ Conlon 21:54:08; 46.30 mph
8. Team 3 Barber / Barber 22:04:21; 45.94 mph
9. Team 8 Gueco / Moen 22:11:21; 45.70 mph
10. Team 32 Mountain / Sommer; 22:49:19; 44.43 mph