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Field Down to 24 Racers, Aklestad and Olstad Leading Into Shaktoolik

Photo from Team #29 Facebook page, via the public domain.

The lead racers in the 2020 Iron Dog are bearing down on Koyuk as the field begins its northwards climb to the Kotzebue loop, a section of trail unfamiliar to many of the competitors. Tyler Aklestad and Nick Olstad have maintained their lead since our last update, checking out of Shaktoolik at 11:29am.

According to the unofficial GPS live-tracker, Cody Barber and Robby Schachle of Team 39 are currently in second position. Hot on their heels are Chris Olds and Mike Morgan.

Our friends at KIYU radio spoke to Morgan yesterday in Galena, and asked about the new leg between Koyuk and Kotzebue. Morgan, who grew up in Nome and regularly trains in the region, is hoping to benefit from some home-court advantage.

“So last spring I ran that section… I ran from Kotzebue to Nome. I ran part of that. I race up there every year, so I do that whole loop through Noorvik, Kiana, Selawik. I know that area really well.”

– Mike Morgan

Those racers who have reached the coast are battling through unforgiving conditions. The National Weather Service has issued a Winter Weather Advisory for the Eastern Norton Sound, calling for snow accumulations of up to eight inches in Shaktoolik and windspeeds as high as 45 mph. Despite staying less than a mile apart, racers may struggle to see one another due to poor visibility.

Towards the latter half of the field, scratches have begun to pile up in this year’s Iron Dog. After Team 27’s Jeremiah and Jerad Vanderpool scratched this morning, the father-daughter team of Larry and Danielle Levine opted to end their race early to make it five team scratches as of the time of this update. In their decision, the Levines cited a series of unfortunate events, including a tumble by Larry late yesterday and equipment issues for Danielle. She spent the better part of Sunday wrenching her Polaris after an engine lock up. After spending the night in Nanana, the scratch was made official around 9am this morning.

Twenty-four teams remain in the 2020 Iron Dog snowmachine race; the first of which are expected to reach Kotzebue by the end of today, where an overnight layover awaits them.

Image at top: Team #29’s Danielle Levine working on her machine in the 2020 Iron Dog. Photo from Team #29’s Facebook page, used with permission from Iron Dog.

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