All But One Iron Dog Team Into Galena, Leaders Onto the Norton Sound Coast

Team #8, Aklestad/Johnson

By the time the first day of racing was over in the 2020 Iron Dog, four teams had already scratched from the race, bringing the field down to 25. The 2,400-mile snowmachine race began yesterday morning in Fairbanks, and as of 7am today, racers have already started checking out of Galena, about 400 miles into the Iron Dog trail. 

On their way to Galena, teams had to traverse a potentially wind-blown stretch from Tanana to Ruby. Tre West of Nome told KIYU radio that for the most part, it was a smooth trail.

“It was kind of drifted, but it was punched out by the time we went through there, so it wasn’t terrible. It was pretty easy to figure out where the trail went.”

West and his teammate Daniel Stang of Nome are currently holding 7th position. They left Galena about 25 minutes after 7am this morning

With this year’s new layover rules, everyone had to stop in Galena for a night, and do a staggered restart at 7am this morning. Tyler Aklestad and Nick Olstad of team #7 were the first into Galena last night and were first out at exactly 7am. The leaders now race another 290 miles to Koyuk before they turn north towards Kotzebue and the new northern loop.

Some teams are more familiar with this upcoming stretch of trail than others, especially if they live in Western Alaska. But Aklestad told KIYU radio that he and Olstad scouted out the Kotzebue loop before this race began.

“It’s definitely interesting. Yes, we were fortunate enough to be one of the teams that ran up there and we actually spent two full weekends up there in Kotzebue. It’s a different area. Even after spending a couple weekends up there, it’s still very new to us.”

The first teams are expected to reach Kotzebue by the end of the day, where another overnight layover awaits them.

According to race standings, Aklestad and Olstad left Galena three minutes ahead of second position Cody Barber and Robby Schachle, who are about two and a half minutes ahead of last year’s winners, Mike Morgan and Chris Olds in third position.

Image at top: Iron Dog racer Tyler Aklestad in the 2017 snowmachine race. Photo courtesy of Matthew McGee (2017).