Pro Class racers ready to wrench after arriving in snowy Nome

Iron Dog race teams rest up in Nome
Published: Feb. 21, 2023 at 6:04 AM AKST|Updated: Feb. 21, 2023 at 10:09 PM AKST
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NOME, Alaska (KTUU) - There are now just 15 Pro Class teams left in the 2023 Iron Dog snowmachine race after 10 scratches since the start in Big Lake on Friday morning.

The leading team, however, says they are riding clean on what has been a really tough trail for the rest of the pack.

“Our sleds are like showroom condition, they are just going good,” Nick Olstad said as his team 7 arrived in Nome.

Team 7′s Tyler Aklestad and Nick Olstad arrived in Nome in first place, followed shortly after by team 14′s Casey Boylan and Bryan Leslie.

The defending champions are looking to repeat this year, but first, they’ll need to rest for the night and wrench on their sleds in the morning. The perennial front runners of team 10 — Mike Morgan and Chris Olds — were forced to scratch over the weekend, but Morgan is in Nome to help with wrench day and says there is still a ton of race left.

“They’ve still got a lot of race to go, 1,100 miles,” Morgan said of his team. “They’ve already done the Kotzebue loop, weather is coming in hard on the coast though — you know, so mother nature always dictates this race — so she’s throwing in a wrench once again and they are going to have to navigate through this stuff.”

According to the racers, the trail has been rougher than normal — with all of the snow that Western Alaska has received lately, it hasn’t had a chance to settle down.

“I’m hearing the trail is really, really rough — mainly because of the amount of snow that we received through the McGrath area, Poorman and Ophir,” Iron Dog Executive Director Mike Vasser said. “With that happening and not having any cool weather to set it up, it doesn’t set up and so as the sleds go through it, it makes the bumps deeper and deeper and bigger and bigger. It’s been a challenge.”

Weather is likely to become a big factor in the race, with a large storm in the forecast that could change the outlook of this race, possibly giving teams besides 14 and 7 a chance to catapult into the front of the pack.

All of the Pro Class teams will now rest for the night before wrench day on Tuesday, when they get the chance to fix their sleds in a heated garage before heading back out into the snowy abyss come Wednesday morning.