15 out of the 16 teams remaining in this year’s Iron Dog snowmachine race have reached Nome, the halfway point in a 2,400-mile course. Since they took the lead into Galena on Sunday, Team #7 of Tyler Aklestad and Nick Olstad have continued to hold onto first position.

After pulling into Nome first, just before 4:30pm yesterday, with his helmet still on, Olstad told KNOM that the trail in from White Mountain had good snow coverage for the most part.

“The trip from White Mountain was pretty good, there was quite a bit of new snow, and then down here (in Nome) there was hardly any snow. But it was a good fast trip, but pretty crappy weather.”

As Aklestad and Olstad were zooming towards Nome, they were contending with blowing snow and very limited visibility for most of the day. So naturally, between Koyuk and White Mountain the leaders slowed down to speeds of about 15mph at some points. But, Olstad explains that wasn’t because of bad trail or poor weather conditions.

“Ah we messed up a little bit and we took the overland trail (near Golovin Bay)…”

Team #7 had an hour lead on the second position team of Tyson Johnson and Brad George out of Koyuk yesterday afternoon, but by the time Aklestad and Olstad had reached Nome they had extended that to an hour and a half. None of the top five teams, which now includes reigning Iron Dog champions for the past two years, Mike Morgan and Chris Olds in 5th; have used any of that flex layover time.

The optional wildcard layover hours are one of the new features in this year’s Iron Dog. Racers can choose to take up to six hours of rest, or wrench time to work on their machines, at any point on the trail, however it still goes against their total race time. Taking full advantage of this flex layover is Team #37, the only team that hasn’t reached Nome.

As of 8am, the GPS tracker shows Canadians Ben Hildebrand and Mark Fosty have not left Buckland yet. Reportedly the two rookies got turned around yesterday before they could reach Koyuk southbound and accidentally went back to Kotzebue. They have since corrected their error and elected to keep racing onto Buckland with the intent of reaching Nome.

According to Iron Dog race rules, in order for Hildebrand and Fosty to keep racing on, they must reach Nome by 11:59pm tonight.

We’ll see if Fosty and Hildebrand make it in time for the festivities, as the 2020 Iron Dog halfway banquet is scheduled to begin at 5:30pm tonight at the Nome Mini Convention Center.

Image at top: Tyler Akelstad and Nick Olstad arrive into Nome first in the 2020 Iron Dog. Photo from Davis Hovey, KNOM (2020).