Team 7 repeats as Iron Dog champions
BIG LAKE, Alaska (KTUU) - Tyler Aklestad and Nick Olstad of Team 7 won their second consecutive Iron Dog championship early Saturday afternoon in Big Lake.
The duo rode together across the finish line around 12:05 p.m. under sunny skies and surrounded by cheering fans. The team’s course time was 52 hours, 58 minutes, and 32 seconds.
Olstad said in a post-race interview it was the “nicest day of riding so far.” The race began on Friday, February 17, in Big Lake.
“Yesterday was probably the most stressful,” Olstad said. “We knew we were losing time, it was deep snow and whiteout (conditions) and (Aklestad) was following a set of wolf tracks. That was the only thing he could see on the river. Just trying to find that trail.”
Team 14 (Casey Boylan and Bryan Leslie) arrived in Big Lake next, finishing approximately 35 minutes behind the winners.
“I just want to thank Casey first of all,” Leslie said. “He led that whole race and he hit some stuff I’m glad I didn’t have to hit, so thank him, our families. I mean, we are the two having fun, there’s a lot of people behind this that put a lot of effort into this that don’t get recognized.”
Team 39 (Cody Barber, Brett Lapham) rounded out the top-3, finishing just under an hour after Team 7.
“We had a really good ride,” Barber said. “The top-2 teams ran a super good race, we had minimal wrench time ... we just fed off each other’s energy.”
The victory marked the third Iron Dog title in four years for Team 7.
“75% is pretty good I think, that’s passing,” Olstad said jokingly.
Aklestad said one’s never guaranteed to even finish the race.
“In my 19 years of doing this, I think this is only the second time back-to-time that I finished,” Aklestad said. “Like I’ve won, and then I’ve had a DNF (did not finish) or some sort of issues. So it felt pretty awesome to be where we are right now.”
The Iron Dog 2023 field provided plenty of competition for the reigning champions.
According to Iron Dog’s official website, Team 7 arrived at the final checkpoint of Skwentna just after 7 p.m. on Friday with a 33-minute lead over Team 14. On Friday morning, that lead was 44 minutes.
Aklestad and Olstad have proven successful on the Iron Dog trail with other teammates, too.
Olstad won once with teammate Marc McKenna (2005) and twice with Todd Minnick (2009, 2014). Aklestad won once with teammate Tyson Johnson (2016).
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