‘Pretty amazing that we’re here’: Morgan and Olds win second Iron Dog in a row

Mike Morgan and Chris Olds with their snowmachines at the Fairbanks finish line of the 2019 Iron Dog on Saturday, Feb. 23. (Photo courtesy of Tim Bodony, KIYU)

When all was said and done, Saturday morning before 11am, Mike Morgan and Chris Olds crossed the finish line of this year’s Iron Dog in about 34 hours and 30 minutes, making this their second win in two consecutive races. Morgan has won twice so far, but Olds has now claimed first four times in his career.

At the finish in Fairbanks, Olds told KIYU radio he’s still in shock about joining a limited club of four-time winners like Todd Palin.

“It’s pretty crazy. I mean, all of those are legends in this race, for sure, so I’m definitely honored to be within that group,” Olds said. “There are a lot of good guys that could win this race, and a lot could go wrong in this race. It’s really hard to put it all together, so it’s pretty amazing that we’re here.”

Olds won the Iron Dog in 2010 and 2011 with partner Tyler Huntington. As his newer teammate, Mike Morgan says this winning duo makes it work out on the trail. They held onto the lead for the majority of this race.

“The chemistry is great. We’re both very mechanically inclined, and that’s a huge part of the race, huge aspect, and obviously, we’re both good riders, and we’re good at keeping a level head when things go bad,” Morgan said. “We’re good at taking the positives out of any situation and making things happen, and that’s what you’ve got to do: you’ve got to be able to make decisions on the fly, and if plan A doesn’t work, then plan B, and you’ve got to roll with things.”

Morgan and Olds both rode Indy XC 600 Polaris snowmachines from Deshka Landing to Nome and then Fairbanks. According to the race winners, they spent very little time “wrenching” or repairing their sleds, which saved them a big chunk of time in the standings.

Joining forces for their first Iron Dog together were top-placed rookies Amos Cruise of McGrath and Jarvis Miller of Nome, who finished fifth overall in just over 37 hours. Miller says this snowmachine race is very different from the experiences he’s had in sprint races.

“This is a whole different ball game. This is a total mental game, this race,” Miller said. “And, you know, throttle control mind-set, and you have to be prepared in this stuff. And it’s just a different game for me, a new learning experience, and I’m glad to get this one out of the way.”

Both Cruise and Miller reiterated that it takes two racers to accomplish this feat, but there’s certainly more people involved behind the scenes as well.

“My brother, he was a big help, and his fiancée Chelsea Reader. They were a huge help making all the meals and prep time. Thank you, Chelsea, for letting me steal my brother in the shop time and parents, my girlfriend, daughter,” Miller said. “Everybody back in Nome for all the support. Q-Trucking and Charlie Reader, there’s a long list that I don’t want to forget, but to everybody that has helped us out: ‘We appreciate everything.’”

Two-time champ Morgan also expressed his gratitude and thanks to his Mom (his biggest fan), his family, and everyone from his hometown of Nome who supported him.

When asked about their plans for next year’s Iron Dog, Cruise and Miller responded without hesitation.

“Yeah, we’re ready to go again; gas up!”

According to race archives, 2019 Iron Dog champions Morgan and Olds finished the 2,000-mile race with the fastest trail time since the early 1990s.