The Trail riders left Friday and spent their first night out. The Pro group begins on Sunday and some of them will pass the Trail Riders. The riders will fly as fast as they can over the snow to be escorted into Nome. While they are here their machines are secured so no one has to worry. No one is allowed to work on the machines except the riders. In Nome riders can work on their machines, eat, sleep and get ready to take off as scheduled. Departure times are based on their splits for the first half. At the restart the teams line up in order of departure and are sent off one team at a time.
This year the Pro Class has 40 teams which includes three women and three Nome riders (who will all be on Arctic Cat Sno-Pro 600cc) in the Pro Class:
(pictures from the Iron Dog)
Stacey and Cliff are Team #23.
This is the first time they have done this race so they are considered rookies : )
Tre' and his team mate, Andy, have run this several times and are veterans for Team #17.
Years ago Tre' was on a training ride with his partner. They were each on their own machine. One had a gps and the other a satellite phone. As they went over some ice they broke through. The machine with the gps went down so both riders climbed onto the other machine which was staying up. Luckily it was the one with the phone. Tre's first call was answered by his Mom and he asked where his dad was but didn't give any details. On his next call he told his Dad the where's and what's of their predicament. After they were rescued his mother asked "Why didn't you tell me?" Tre' didn't want to worry her......
The race weather and snow conditions can vary a lot. Racing machines are cooled by the snow as they go. Traveling too slowly or with too little snow results in them over-heating. One year there was hardly any snow on the trail and the machines had to be stopped every few minutes so the riders could scoop ice/snow into the engines to cool them. It was slow going and there were many scratches from the race. One of the Nome riders that year was a class-mate of Tre's who is known to be very good with machines. He and his partner were asked to try a new system for the machine sponsors. The system didn't hold up and eventually they ran out of parts to fix it on the trail. So they sat and watched as other riders who had been behind them pass by. Riders offered lifts to the next checkpoint but rides were declined.
The first time I heard the story I was told he was waiting for the girls because he didn't want to ride with a guy so I asked if that was true. He said it was partly true....but it was a case of couldn't not wouldn't. The seats were too little for two guys but the girls were smaller so the guys were able to double up for a ride so they could catch a flight home!
Driving home during race week my daughter and I stopped to watch one of the teams coming into town across the sea ice. As if in a movie one of the riders hit an ice bump and was airborne, then rolled end over end leaving pieces of the machine in its path. When they stopped the machine was on the rider. As I started to get out to help, and my daughter dialed 911, we paused and watched in amazement as the rider got up on his own and checked out his gear and mangled machine. When his partner caught up to him they spoke briefly then both took off towards Nome.
The two "little girls" were part of the small group of teams that made it to Nome that year. The husband of one of them was a leader in the race heading out of Nome. His team took off at the beginning of the restart and she was one of the last ones to leave. The conditions that morning were not good with a ground storm swirling the snow making visibility poor. As the girls were preparing to take off a spectator came in on his machine to report there had been an accident with one of the lead teams. The rest of the teams were started and emergency personnel went to take care of the injured rider.
It turned out the two team members had collided in the low light. The ski of one machine went into the other machine where the rider's leg was. There was one other less serious mishap with another team, but the rest of the field made it to the next checkpoint. The girls had a mechanical which they fixed and continued on to White Mountain. At the checkpoint, the wife found out her husband was the injured rider and had been taken back to town to be medivaced to Anchorage because of his serious injuries.
Of all of the teams that continued out of White Mountain, only a few made it to the finish. It was a rough year, for both the machines and riders. One rider ran into a tree. The machine that cartwheeled before Nome was too badly damaged to head back out and the riders flew to Fairbanks. Several teams, including the women, had more mechanical problems and ended up stopping before the finish.
If you want to follow the race it usually has pretty good coverage through different media sources. They try to update frequently on their website, irondograce.org , and the updates feed to Facebook, Twitter, etc.
Safe rides everyone!