Polaris cross-country snowmobile racers Mike Morgan and Chris Olds were the leaders at the midway point of the grueling 2014 Iron Dog cross-country snowmobile race across Alaska. Competing in the Pro class, Morgan and Olds led the field into Nome, Alaska, where the drivers enjoyed a midway banquet on Wednesday night before racing resumed Thursday, Feb. 20.
The Pros are expected to cross the finish line in Fairbanks on Saturday, Feb. 22.
Morgan and Olds arrived at the midway point in Nome 25 minutes ahead of the second-place team, meaning they would start the second half of the race with that advantage. Both were competing on Polaris 600 Switchback PRO-R sleds. Morgan, 28, is from Nome and is in his fifth Iron Dog. Olds, 42, who is from Eagle River, Alaska, has run the race 12 times before this year and was on back-to-back winning teams in 2010 and 2011.
In third place at Nome was the Polaris team of Todd Minnick and Nick Olstad, a pair of Wasilla, Alaska, racers who teamed up to win the 2009 race. Minnick, 34, is on a 600 Switchback PRO-R in his 12th Iron Dog race. Olstad, 31, who is on a 600 RUSH in his 10th Iron Dog, won in 2005, his first year as a Pro, as well as in 2009.
Experienced racers said conditions for this year’s 2,013-mile race were as rough as they could recall. The final leg of the first half, from Unalakleet to Nome, was reportedly as challenging as the veterans had ever seen it, with a severe lack of snow, frozen tundra tussocks, exposed rock, and broken ice slowing teams and causing significant sled damage.
Polaris racer Scott Faeo rode the final 40 miles to Nome on one ski after an aftermarket ski on his sled broke. He and all the other racers took advantage of the layover in Nome to work on their sleds.