Tyler Aklestad and Nick Olstad are the 2020 Iron Dog Champions, giving Aklestad his second race win and Olstad his fourth overall.
The two racers had not competed together before this race, but Aklestad told KIYU Radio back in Galena that the two Iron Dog veterans were looking for a change this year.
“Me and Nick have known each other since all the way back in highschool. We went to competitive rival high schools I guess, I went to Palmer, he went to Colony. We’ve kind of always known each other and have always been competitive with each other in snowmachine racing aspect. We’ve floated the idea around, but me and Tyson Johnson had a pretty good thing going, and he and Todd Minnick did. Kind of always said ‘hey, maybe someday we’ll do it together…’ and it just felt like it was the right time to change things up.”
And it seems Aklestad was right. The new winning team set a new record finish time, as the Iron Dog course was new to everyone this year. Olstad and Aklestad checked into Big Lake around 1:18pm Saturday, with a total run time of 50 hours, eight minutes, and three seconds.
This year’s winners had a two-hour and forty-minute cushion on last year’s Iron Dog champs of Mike Morgan and Chris Olds. Even though Morgan and Olds crossed the finish line at 1:48pm Saturday, their total course time was almost 53 hours.
The third-place team of Brett Lapham and Zack Weiss finished the race with almost an extra two hours in course time behind Morgan and Olds. Third place is their highest Iron Dog finish to date. According to race archives, they finished in 4th last year (2019).
When all was said and done in the 2020 Iron Dog snowmachine race, only 11 out of the original 29 teams reached the finish line. The last team was Mark Fosty and Ben Hildebrand of Manitoba, Canada, who arrived before 10:30pm Saturday with some help from another team. According to a post from the Iron Dog, Fosty of Team #37 got stuck in overflow along the Kuskokwim River on the way to Big Lake Saturday. He got some help from Team #24 of the Schrufs to continue the race and finish side by side with the other team later that night.
The red lanterns joked at the finish line they’re ready to race again next year, as registration for the 2021 Iron Dog has already begun.
Image at top: Tyler Aklestad and Nick Olstad (pictured in the middle) claim the 2020 Iron Dog race title. Photo from Iron Dog, used with permission.