Iron Dog 2023: Top teams are into McGrath, where most will take 14 hour layover

Iron Dog 2023
Published: Feb. 17, 2023 at 10:48 PM AKST
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MCGRATH, Alaska (KTUU) - Day one and over 300 miles of trail are behind Iron Dog competitors as the top teams reached the McGrath checkpoint Friday evening, led by Team 10′s Mike Morgan and Chris Olds.

“What a day. We just kept pushing, kept grinding, it’s rough out there ... really rough,” Morgan said. “Just staying focused and keep grinding, even when you’re hurting, you’re tired and you’re getting your ass kicked, just keep grinding man. I told Chris, ‘we have 15 miles until Nikolai and then it’s river to McGrath, let’s go, let’s do this.’ That’s the most technical part of the whole trail, so from here it gets easier.”

But the two-time champions — taking the title in both 2018 and 2019 — know that there are teams right on their tail throughout the trail. As Team 14 pulled in just 15 minutes behind Team 10, Morgan complimented his fellow competitors.

“Those guys are doing really well too,” Morgan said of Team 14 who pulled in just 15 minutes behind Team 10.

Casey Boylan and Bryan Leslie of Team 14 rode into McGrath second, a position they are a little too familiar with. The tandem was leading the 2021 race down the stretch before a mechanical issue bumped them back to second place, and the duo had to scratch in Nome last year after reaching the checkpoint in second place, due to injuries suffered by Leslie.

“It’s the first day — these sleds are all brand new, we just want to take it easy, you don’t want to wreck it in the first 75 miles so you just take it easy, sometimes a little too easy, but hey, we made it here in one piece,” Boylan said after arriving in McGrath. “It was pretty dang rough getting into Nikolai, it was just nasty, big bumps, hard bumps, you can see other guys trying to miss the bumps...everyone is going slow though, trying to conserve their equipment.”

There are still many miles of Alaska’s backcountry remaining, but the veterans know how crucial this portion of the race is.

“You can’t win the race in the first day, but you can definitely lose it,” said Klinton Vanwingerden, who is riding with Todd Palin on Team 49. “Definitely take your time and keep yourself clean and healthy.”

Most teams have arrived in McGrath as of publishing, with each arriving team required to leave the checkpoint by 11:59 p.m. on Saturday. McGrath is a popular checkpoint for teams to take their required 14-hour layover due to the lodging and quality of food, which is the only thing that seems to be on racer’s minds as they reach the important milestone along the 2,503 mile journey.

“Eat and drink as much water as we can, pretty much that’s it,” Boylan said of his team’s plans in McGrath.

McGrath is also where the time differentials are made up from the interval start at Big Lake, as every team leaving will now be on the same ‘race time’. With a 14-hour layover and the top teams arriving around 6 p.m., expect sleds to be back on the Iron Dog trail by 8 a.m. on Saturday morning.

Current Iron Dog standings can be found here while there will be continued Iron Dog coverage at