2018 Iron Dog: It’s going to be a fast one
“We drove pretty much most of the course,” said Tre West at his Nome shop Saturday. “It’s flat and fast this year. It’s going to be a fast year I think.” West is running his eighth Iron Dog. His teammate this year is Aaron Bartel of Anchorage.
Micah Huss and his partner Ryan Sottosanti rode the course from Fairbanks to Nome this past weekend. They also reported conditions that were made for speed.
“It will be real fast at the front of the pack,” said Jim Wilke, president of the Iron Dog Board of Directors. “But snow makes bumps.”
The Pro Class race starts Sunday, February 18 at Big Lake. Forty-eight two-man teams are entered this year. The halfway ceremonies take place in Nome on Feb. 21. Pro Class race teams will work on their machines at the City garage that Wednesday and the Nome banquet and awarding of halfway prizes will be at the Nome Rec Center from 6 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. Among prizes to be awarded are the $10,000 “Gold Rush” cash prize from Donlin Gold for the first team to Nome and the Nome Lions Club’s prize valued at $6,000.
The riders will finish in Fairbanks on Feb. 28. The first place team takes home $60,000 in prize money, second place wins $30,000. Snow machine manufacturers have put up contingency prizes for riders on their sleds. Each of the three major brands offers $10,000 for a win on one of their machines. The total of the official purse and contingency prize packages is $228,396.
Also signed up for the race is Team 10, Nome-grown Mike Morgan and his partner Chris Olds. This year’s race will be Morgan’s ninth Iron Dog, and seventh with partner Olds.
Micah Huss, originally from Kotzebue and now a summer resident of Nome, reports that he and his partner have been doing long training rides and spending time at the gym. Physical conditioning is an important part of a rider’s pre-race preparations. Tre West also has been putting in long hours on the sled to get ready.
“Lots of competition out there,” said West. “People are going on longer training rides, all the way from Anchorage to here. Doing more hours, getting in shape more. It’s becoming a young guy’s race. That’s for sure.”
While the young guys have the muscle and the endurance the old guys are smart and wily points out Jim Wilke. So age can also be a plus.
The Iron Dog cancelled the ceremonial start downtown Anchorage for financial reasons.
“The downtown start was a fantastic addition to our race, but it was simply too expensive and complex to continue,” said Wilke. “We look forward to another great race as we celebrate 35 successful years of Iron Dog.”
Nome’s Evan Booth is a new inductee into the Iron Dog Hall of Fame. A two-time winner, Booth is also notable for being the first to do long distance training for the race. Booth is also the first and as yet only race winner from the northwest coast of Alaska.
“Used to be they’d go to Skwenta or Rainy Pass and turn around,” said Jim Wilke. “He realized he needed to get better at all sorts of terrain. He’d put on 1,000 miles in a couple days in all sorts of conditions.”