Two snow machiners awaiting their restart time at night time.

The frontrunners in this year’s Iron Dog have started departing Kotzebue after taking an overnight stay in the northwest hub checkpoint. Leaders Brad George and Robby Schachle left at 6am this morning followed by Brett Lapham and Zack Weisz less than a minute later.

Both teams had already blown through Buckland by 8am.

Holding onto third position is team #14 of Casey Boylan and Bryan Leslie. They jumped ahead of Nome’s Mike Morgan and teammate Chris Olds yesterday and haven’t looked back since. Less than 15 minutes separates Boylan and Leslie from the race leaders currently.
Meanwhile, 4th position Morgan and Olds left Kotzebue at 7:22am.

Yesterday also saw another team scratch from the race, the Minnesota racers of Jacob Dahle and Dustin Dohrn. According to the Iron Dog, Dahle and Dohrn struggled with mechanical issues and took seven hours to travel from White Mountain to Koyuk last night. Most of the race leaders took about 90 minutes to cover the same section of trail.

Executive Director, Mike Vasser says he doesn’t know what exactly happened to the Minnesota racers, but he’s, “trying to help them get out of Koyuk because we’re not supposed to stay there.”

2021 Iron Dog Race rules state that, “most of the villages along the racecourse are closed to outside travelers during the COVID-19 pandemic. After reviewing our COVID-19 Mitigation Plan, most of the villages have agreed to only let us pass through. Along with Skwentna and Puntilla (Rainy Pass Lodge), we have agreements with McGrath, Galena, and Nome that will allow racers to use those checkpoints as layover locations.”
Since Koyuk is not on that list, racers are not supposed to spend prolonged periods of time in that community.

That leaves 17 teams in this year’s Iron Dog snowmachine race with all of them into Kotzebue at this point. The next major checkpoint is in Galena, but according to a statement from Iron Dog, it’s possible that some racers may push all the way to McGrath before taking their next layover.
Vasser says it’s a roughly eight-hour run from Kotzebue to Galena, so pushing onwards another 250 miles from there to McGrath would not be his choice.

Stay tuned to KNOM Update News for the next Iron Dog race update as more teams check out of Kotzebue later this morning.

Image at top: Team #6 of George and Schachle departing Nome during the 2021 Iron Dog Race restart (Photo from Kevin Fox, KNOM)