Racers are adjusting their strategy for taking mandatory layovers due to the southbound trail past Ruby not being fully broken in by last night. The field of 14 Iron Dog teams has now spread out quite a bit on their way to the finish in Big Lake.
As of this update, the top five teams are all completing their 20 hours of layovers in Ruby, led by Tyler Aklestad and Nick Olstad. Team #7 has maintained their lead in this year’s race since the first day on Sunday, but right now only 40 minutes separates them from last year’s Iron Dog champions, Mike Morgan and Chris Olds. For reference, Morgan and Olds restarted from Nome an hour and six minutes behind Aklestad and Olstad on Thursday.
Both first and second position elected to take all 20 hours of their mandatory layover in one sitting, while 3rd position Tyson Johnson and Brad George chose to split it up. Team #6 stopped for ten hours in Kaltag yesterday afternoon, got back on the trail around 1:40am and then arrived into Ruby just after 4am this morning to take their next ten hours of layover. Johnson and George will be able to leave Ruby en-route to the next southbound checkpoint of Poorman’s around 2pm this afternoon.
Leaders Aklestad and Olstad however will complete their mandatory layover hours at 1:15pm today, while Morgan and Olds can leave Ruby about five minutes before 2pm. All of the top teams will then have to decide where to take a final six-hour layover, which must be completed by the time they reach Puntilla. That checkpoint is about 400 miles away from the frontrunners in Ruby, and roughly 160 miles out from the finish line.
That decision may be swayed by the condition of the trail, as Iron Dog reports trailbreakers were dealing with significant amounts of snow on a hundred-mile stretch from Poorman’s to Ophir. According to the Iron Dog, board member Roger Brown was grooming some trail all yesterday, in between the two checkpoints. The GPS tracker still shows him on the trail north of Ophir, as of 8am.
Image at top: Tyler Aklestad and Nick Olstad of Team #7 arrive into Ruby, southbound, first on Thursday. Photo from Iron Dog, courtesy of Melissa Captain (2020).