All 18 Pro Class teams left in this year’s Iron Dog race have reached the halfway point in Nome. The race route as well as some logistics were tweaked this year due to COVID-19, but most of the racers are adjusting well so far into the 2,600-mile race.
With timing and rest accounted for, team #6 of George and Schachle are currently in first position followed by Brett Lapham and Zack Weisz of team #5 in second position. In third position is team #10, Mike Morgan of Nome and Chris Olds, a four-time Iron Dog champion.
Morgan, who has won two Iron Dogs thus far, is happy to be out on the trail again.
“I’m glad we could still have the race this year, despite the stuff that’s going on.”– Mike Morgan
According to the current standings, Morgan and Olds are ten minutes behind the leaders Brad George and Robby Schachle. All of the top four teams are less than 15 minutes apart at this point in the race.
George and Schachle have a total course time of 19 hours and 48 minutes. Second position, Brett Lapham and Zack Weisz, have a total course time of 19 hours and 50 minutes. Morgan and Olds are just under 20 hours with a time of 19 hours and 58 minutes. Then in fourth position, Casey Boylan and Bryan Leslie have a course time of 20 hours and one minute.
This year’s racers sped into Nome days earlier than usual since the course was slightly altered to have fewer layover checkpoints, less overnight stops, and a direct route from Big Lake to Nome instead of going up to Kotzebue first.
Shane Barber of team #3 has competed in the Iron Dog 15 times although he is a rookie to the pro class. He says this year’s changes require racers to change their approach to the over 2,000-mile trail.
“I think just the overall distance kind of taking some of the cards off the table as far as layover points and things like that. So that’s definitely in everybody’s forefront of thoughts as far as how they approach the race. So, you got to be a little more cautious.”– Shane Barber
Barber is joined by his 16-year-old son Evan who is also a rookie to the Iron Dog this year. Currently the father-son duo is in 8th position.
Barber says he and his teammate, his son, don’t really have a strategy other than to finish this year’s race.
Along with the other teams, they will all have time today to wrench and inspect their sleds to be ready for the rest of their trip. From Nome the remaining 18 pro class teams will head to Kotzebue and do a loop before going back down through Koyuk again as they re-trace their route to Big Lake. As Morgan puts it, there’s still a lot of racing left to do.
“We still got a long way to go man. These top guys are pushing really hard and you know your equipment has to go another 1,300 miles through the same stuff and then some. So, we’re going up through Kotzebue and I think equipment is going to start dropping here pretty soon, I would think.”– Mike Morgan
For the rest of today, Iron Doggers will spend time in the garage as well as recuperate before they restart the 2021 race tomorrow morning from the Nome sea ice.
Image at top: 2021 Iron Dog Team #5 of Lapham and Weisz Chat with one of the race leaders of Team #6 in Nome. Photo from Kevin Fox, KNOM (2021).