Tyler Aklestad and Nick Olstad were the first ones out of Kotzebue at 7am this morning, completing what could be considered the second stage layover in this year’s 2,400-mile Iron Dog snowmachine race.
Only two other teams were able to leave Kotzebue before 8am. According to the Iron Dog, Cody Barber and Robby Schachle were in second position and could have left at 7:45am, followed by Tyson Johnson and Brad George about three minutes later. However, Schachle and Barber chose to scratch from the race in Kotzebue.
Also, the GPS tracker does not show Team #6 of Johnson and George, but the Iron Dog leaderboard confirms they checked out of Kotzebue just before 7:48am.
Last year’s Iron Dog champions, Mike Morgan and Chris Olds have fallen back to 7th position and are scheduled to leave Kotzebue around 9:15am this morning.
Poor weather conditions continue to be a factor at this point, as teams are spreading out more after traveling more than 850 miles of the longest snowmachine race.
Team #7’s Aklestad told KOTZ radio after reaching Kotzebue right before 5pm last night, that the whiteout conditions coming into Kotzebue were among the worst he’s seen.
“From Unalakleet to Koyuk, all the way through, it was like staring at a sheet of white paper pretty much. It was pretty unreal.”
Aklestad and Olstad have both done the Iron Dog for at least 15 years. As the top two teams close in on Noorvik, everyone else is either resting in Kotzebue, or has scratched from the race.
Yesterday saw five more teams take themselves out of the race, including Team 36 of Daniel Stang and Tre West of Nome. After spending half a day in Koyuk trying to fix their machines, Stang and West decided to call it a race. According to the Iron Dog, the pair of Nomeites did get their machines working again last night but chose to scratch anyways and drive back to Nome from Koyuk. They are expected to arrive home later today.
With the latest scratch of Team #39, that leaves 18 out of the original 29 teams still competing in this year’s 2,400-mile snowmachine race.
Image at top: Photo of 2020 Iron Dog race map, courtesy of Iron Dog website.