Early Thursday, pairs of snow machines began zipping out of Nome to continue the second leg of the 2014 Iron Dog Snow Machine Race.
Nome is the halfway mark of the 2,031-mile Iron Dog, known as the longest, toughest snow machine race in the world.
First to leave at exactly 8 a.m. this morning was team number 10, Chris Olds and Nome’s own Mike Morgan. Teams were heading out of town throughout the day based on their arrival and wrench times.
Thirty-one of the original 38 teams made it to Nome. This year was predicted to be on of the toughest races on record with open water and areas of no snow. Kevin Kastner, Iron Dog Executive Director, says the hype concerning this year’s rough conditions actually worked to the competitors’ advantage. The concern upped the racers’ caution, keeping most of them in the race.
“Really, the caution and all the concern, I think, in the end allowed most of these teams to get to Nome,” Kastner said. “Was the fact that they were so worried, were so cautious, there was so much hype, they throttled back just a little bit and I think that’s what allowed them to actually survive to this point.”
Kastner says though there’s no typical Iron Dog, on average one-third or more of the racers do not make it to Nome. This year beat those odds. And though only half-way through the race, Kastner says already it’s one of the better Iron Dog’s he’s seen.
“Given the rough conditions, given the caution, given the number of competitors and strong teams and the relatively minimal damage that we’ve seen, by all accounts it’s a great race this year,” Kastner said. “And it’s clean. The sportsmanship is fantastic. I think it’s one of our better years even though it’s a tough one.”
So far 28 teams remain in the running. 10 teams have scratched. And only one will finish first in Fairbanks on Saturday.