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  1. #1
    Bill M
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    Iditarod Trail Invitational 2012

    On February 26th the longest snow bike race in the world begins in Knik, Alaska at 2:00 PM. You can follow your favorite biker or bike on the Alaska Ultra Sport website as they compete 350 miles to McGrath or 1000 miles all the way to Nome. Rumor has it there has been a last minute rush to wider and fatter. With "BIG" snow most places on the Trail and more on the way racers are beginning to try to guess race day conditions. I told a racer the other day, "I wouldn't bet on that with someone elses money." Hope some of you can make it out to Knik Lake for the start and the rest can follow Kathi M's updates on the Website.
    Bill M

  2. #2
    Fatback
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    We'll be there Bill. Good luck to all the racers-look forward to seeing you all soon.
    Speedway Cycles owner http://fatbackbikes.com

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    Looking forward to a couple days of vicarious living through the website. Thanks in advance to Kathi for her updates. Good luck to all of the racers.

    Maybe one day I can see it first hand.
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  4. #4
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    I really enjoy following the race each year and appreciate your efforts a lot.
    laotzucycles.blogspot.com

  5. #5
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    Twas the night before Christmas, and all through the house...

    Ok, dammit, so it ain't christmas, but if you check the forecasts and radar loops for the early miles of the ITI it sure looks mid-wintry!

    Looking forward to following this one, albeit from waaaaay too far away this year.

    Little sumpin' here to put everyone in the mood.

    <iframe src="http://player.vimeo.com/video/36150129?title=0&amp;byline=0&amp;portrait=0&amp;c olor=ff9933" width="818" height="460" frameborder="0" webkitAllowFullScreen mozallowfullscreen allowFullScreen></iframe>

    ~t-minus 14 hours 'til the rookies can stop virtually sharting themselves and start doing it for real!

  6. #6
    Fat!Drunk!Slow!
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    Good luck to all the racers starting tomorrow! Hope to be at the start cheering you on!

  7. #7
    Fatback
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    It was overcast and about 25* at the start today, with snow in the forecast for the next several days. After the start, we drove out about 10mi or so and went for a ride. Here's a pic of Jeff Oatley, Pete Basinger and Tim Berntson coming at us.
    It's going to be a long slog. Spirits were high though. Everyone had a big smile on their face.

    Follow the race here.
    Attached Thumbnails Attached Thumbnails Iditarod Trail Invitational 2012-iditarod-invitational-jeff-o-pete-tim.jpg  

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  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by thirstywork View Post
    It was overcast and about 25* at the start today, with snow in the forecast for the next several days. After the start, we drove out about 10mi or so and went for a ride. Here's a pic of Jeff Oatley, Pete Basinger and Tim Berntson coming at us.
    It's going to be a long slog. Spirits were high though. Everyone had a big smile on their face.

    Follow the race here.
    Dear god.

    It's about time they got back to the 'real winter' the race made its' name with. The superpacked highways and blue skies of the past few years were so unbecoming.

    Checked on last minute flights several times this week. Just because. That pic tells me I chose wisely in staying home this year...

  9. #9
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    Hey Greg--care to comment on gear a bit while we wait for the first reports to filter in?

    I ask because you were there at the start, as well as in the shop the last few days before the race. In the past two weeks I fielded a heap of emails about adding girth (not like you did--talking rims and tires here...) from rookies and vets alike. Ended up shipping out 4 last minute sets of 90's and 100's to folks that had previously been settled with 70's or 80's. Also sold through my whole pile of Husker Du's to folks looking to dump their Endo's for some real traction.

    Just wondering if you saw a similar rush, and if you noticed the effects (fewer 70's and 80's, fewer Endo's) at Knik.

  10. #10
    Caveman
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    oh man, grim... Good to see that Jeff still has his sun visor on though, a sign of pure optimism. Good luck guys.

  11. #11
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    This is EPIC.
    "Cycling is not the whole life, it's much more."
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  12. #12
    Fatback
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    Quote Originally Posted by mikesee View Post
    Hey Greg--care to comment on gear a bit while we wait for the first reports to filter in?

    I ask because you were there at the start, as well as in the shop the last few days before the race. In the past two weeks I fielded a heap of emails about adding girth (not like you did--talking rims and tires here...) from rookies and vets alike. Ended up shipping out 4 last minute sets of 90's and 100's to folks that had previously been settled with 70's or 80's. Also sold through my whole pile of Husker Du's to folks looking to dump their Endo's for some real traction.

    Just wondering if you saw a similar rush, and if you noticed the effects (fewer 70's and 80's, fewer Endo's) at Knik.
    Most of the folks I dealt with were already on 90's/BFLs, or at least BFLs on whatever they were running. Saw some Nates as well, though I'd take the girth over traction every time in these conditions.
    Here's a pic of Pete. I really don't know how he gets away with so little gear. It's impressive.
    Attached Thumbnails Attached Thumbnails Iditarod Trail Invitational 2012-pete-iti-2012.jpg  

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  13. #13
    Fatback
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bearbait View Post
    oh man, grim... Good to see that Jeff still has his sun visor on though, a sign of pure optimism. Good luck guys.
    That visor does a pretty good job of keeping snow out of his eyes too. Almost impossible to keep glasses from fogging in those conditions.
    Speedway Cycles owner http://fatbackbikes.com

  14. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by thirstywork View Post
    Most of the folks I dealt with were already on 90's/BFLs, or at least BFLs on whatever they were running. Saw some Nates as well, though I'd take the girth over traction every time in these conditions.
    Here's a pic of Pete. I really don't know how he gets away with so little gear. It's impressive.
    I guess it's a matter of perspective--his bike looks bloated and overloaded (for a race) to me.

  15. #15
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    Kathi just posted this on the race site:

    Call from racers on a sat phone!
    They camped out just before Flathorn Lake (mile 30). Jeff Jessen, Brij Potnis, Tom McDonald, James Keck. Bill Dent was with them last night and took off. Jeff Oatley and Heather Best were reported on Flathorn Lake as well. Rich Crain our Yentna checker is heading downriver with his snowmachine this morning.


    Reading between the lines, I'm *guessing* this means the first racers into Yentna will be the lead runners.

    Also guessing that Heather is regretting her choice to make this her rookie year. She's not much of a fan of pushing.

    Watching radar it *seems* like the snow was concentrated between the start and Yentna, tapering off towards Skwentna, then getting even thinner into the mountains.

  16. #16
    Caveman
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    MC - If I recall correctly you had the same setup as Pete the last year you raced this in 05' !
    Last edited by Bearbait; 02-27-2012 at 04:32 PM.

  17. #17
    No, that's not phonetic
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    Quote Originally Posted by mikesee View Post
    I guess it's a matter of perspective--his bike looks bloated and overloaded (for a race) to me.
    Maybe he's going solo/unassisted/no drops to Nome. In that case the kit looks a tad skimpy, no?
    My video techniques can be found in this thread.

  18. #18
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    Wow.

    24 hours in and still no one into Yentna?

    I'd guess there's a few 'packs' moving together out there, breaking trail then stepping aside and taking a break to let others do some work.

    But still, 24 hours...

    Once Rich Crain makes it back to Yentna he'll call into Kathi and give her a report. Very surprised that no one's even called in from Luce's yet--they'll hit that spot hours before Yentna.

  19. #19
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    Looks like some bikers are dropping.. It must be really tough out there.

    "I did get some reports by sat phones from racers. Brij Potnis, James Keck, Jeff Jessen, Tom McDonald are pushing their bikes back to the Point MacKenzie store. Eric Johnson call Yentna Station from a cabin along the river, he is turning around. Donald Kane is also heading back to Knik"
    Iditarod Trail Invitational Latest News

  20. #20
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    Kathi just posted this:

    I have been trying all morning to reach check points and lodges along the way getting information on where the racers are.

    I did get some reports by sat phones from racers. Brij Potnis, James Keck, Jeff Jessen, Tom McDonald are pushing their bikes back to the Point MacKenzie store. Eric Johnson call Yentna Station from a cabin along the river, he is turning around. Donald Kane is also heading back to Knik. Rich Crain and Adam from Yentna Station are heading down the river to the confluence of the Susitna River and Yentna River breaking trail. A large group of tourist is heading up the Yentna River from Deshka Landing today. There should be a trail from the Susitna River to Yentna on to Skwentna. Michael Schoder has already snowmachined the trail from Shell down to Skwentna and back and is planning to pack the trail to Fingerlake as well. By this afternoon and later tonight there should be a good trail from the Susitna River/Scary tree all the way to Shell Lake.

    I will update the website and face book as much as I can.

    Kathi


    Reminds me *a lot* of the 2001 race--the year that A Thin White Line was filmed. Something like 2 feet of snow fell overnight after race start--this was in the days of the mandatory bivy on Flathorn Lake. So we'd made it to the lake bivy just fine, but then woke buried, with no visible trail off the lake and it just kept snowing. I was in the lead til about Yentna, mostly because I was one of the few with Remolino rims and tires, and as such I could ride places few others could.

    But after Yentna no one could ride--it was just too deep and unconsolidated, so I was slowly caught and passed by 3-4 motivated cyclists that were only doing the 135 mile version. I was *tickled* to see them--and sick to death of breaking trail solo. Not long after that Bob Baker passed me on skis, and he'd go on to win the 135 into Finger.

    The fact that the race starts on a Sunday PM means that most snowmachine traffic is already done for the weekend and headed back to town when the racers set out from Knik. So although the racers get the trail to themselves and have to worry less about accidents/altercations with the sledneck crowd, they also have little traffic to break in a new trail on a snowy weekday like today. It'll help bunches that Rich came down from Yentna and Michael has been doing laps between Skwentna and Shell--especially since the temps are so warm, allowing the moist snow to set up hard.

    So the word of the day, and probably for tomorrow too, is patience. Anyone that wants to make it to McGrath will make it, they just need to take their time, not burn out trying to go fast, and take care of their feet above all. Smart racers are probably sipping hot chocolate at any of the riverside cabins that will have them, airing out their feet, drying soaked gear, and waiting for the trail to set up.

    Playing devil's advocate, we've always wondered if there'd be a year where no one made it--where it simply wasn't possible to get from Knik to McGrath human powered.

    I think a good number will make it. And I think we'll probably end up shocked at how fast they do it, even with the slowest initial 50 miles in the last decade.

  21. #21
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    Finally several (9 actually) racers have made it in to Yentna Station.

    Of those 9 I only know 5, but those 5 are runners (walkers) thus I assume all 9 of them are afoot.

    There've been times in the past, probably more than I'm aware of, when *one* runner has pulled ahead for a bit. But 9?

    That is unprecedented in this event.

    Anyone that's been around the race awhile will recognize the name of Tim Hewitt. Tim was not the first into Yentna, but he was the first to head back out. Imagine spending the last 29 (yes, twenty-nine) hours in motion, difficult motion, dragging a sled through deep snow, only to finally arrive at this port in the storm. Inside it is warm, dry, cozy. There is food, drink, more food, and a woodburner with comfy chairs pulled right up to it.

    He stayed a total of 43 minutes. In that time he likely removed and dried or replaced his socks, wolfed a cheeseburger or some stew, then stepped back out into the storm.

    From what I know of Tim, it's all the same to him: storm or calm, dark or light, windy on the coast or brutally cold in the Interior, he just keeps ticking off the steps that morph hours into miles. He isn't a machine, he just seems capable of removing the emotion from a situation and reducing it to the barest essentials: "I'm walking to Nome. I need to move forward to get there. Sitting here I'm not moving. Time to get moving...".

    He's famous for walking himself to sleep, over and over, before finally admitting he needs a nap, NOW. Once that condition hits he's not really thinking clearly, and as such has frequently set up his bivy overlapping the trail. Not *in* the trail per se, but the edge of his sled might be hanging over, or if it's warm he might pull his arms out of his bag and one of them will fall onto the trail. That sort of thing. The racers know this, the Iditarod mushers even know it about him.

    But that's just kind of a curiosity about Tim--it's far from the whole story. What's important to remember is that Tim (in his words) has never come up to do 'the short race' (350 miles to McGrath). He trains all year, takes the month off of work, and flies north to Anchorage so that he can walk and run to Nome. To Nome--1000 miles of trail across Alaska. Every time. If memory serves, he's made it, on foot, 7 times already, and he's held the record for foot travel on the Iditarod twice. He holds that record now, set last year on the more difficult South Route. Also going from memory, Tim has only scratched from the race once--due to pneumonia. He still managed 250+ miles that year before pulling the plug and seeking medical attention.

    In the summer when the race seems distant and life is rosy, he and I occasionally keep in touch via email. He'll occasionally rib me about 'ditching that silly bike and seeing the trail for real'. And I never have a good response to that--because he's right in so many ways. What the walkers do in this race is beyond my capability to describe. Riding this course is HARD. Walking it is levels and levels harder than riding.

    Anyhoo, Tim is the kind of guy, kind of competitor that lifts everyone around him up several levels. And he's currently leading this race. In an email last summer I asked him if he wasn't ready to do something else--take on some other, bigger challenge? Or maybe retire and spend his winters in Phoenix?

    His response was terse, direct: "10 is a nice round number...".

    The race to McGrath is a long way from over--still 250+ miles and several days to go. But it is NOT unthinkable, is in fact rather likely, that Tim could win that race outright. And then walk right out of McGrath on the way to where he's always heading...

    MC

  22. #22
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    9 runners into Yentna...

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    Quote Originally Posted by mikesee View Post
    Riding this course is HARD. Walking it is levels and levels harder than riding.

    MC
    I would also add that walking while pushing a bike could be harder than walking, especially if conditions warrant showshoes. I know I would be jealous of the guys walking past me as i staggered along wishing that there was less snow so i could at least lean on the bike while I pushed.
    If anyone has it in their head that they are going to scratch, the first part of the race is certainly a tempting time to do it. The logistics of scratching on Rainy Pass or the Farewell Burn are much more complicated.
    I wouldn't dare to predict an outcome of the race at this point, but in the 2001 race that Mike mentioned, I believe that some runners (maybe Tim HewItt) were in the lead untill the farewell burn.
    After McGrath, Tim Hewitt and Tom Jarding held the lead walking until the last couple of days.
    I am in full agreement with Mike that there is no predicting the race times or trail conditions at this point. In 2002, he was a couple of days behind Pat Irwin to McGrath and still set a course record to Nome.

  24. #24
    Fatback
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    For what it's worth, here's the weather prediction for Skwentna:

    10-Day Forecast for station PAHZ
    Tuesday, 28
    Mostly Cloudy
    10 | -2 °F
    Mostly Cloudy
    Chance of
    Precipitation
    10%
    Wednesday, 29
    Partly Cloudy
    10 | -2 °F
    Partly Cloudy
    Chance of
    Precipitation
    0%
    Thursday, 1
    Snow Showers
    16 | 0 °F
    Snow Showers
    Chance of
    Precipitation
    40%
    Friday, 2
    Overcast
    21 | 3 °F
    Overcast
    Chance of
    Precipitation
    0%
    Saturday, 3
    Overcast
    7 | -6 °F
    Overcast
    Chance of
    Precipitation
    0%

    Just maybe it will calm down enough to get snowmachine traffic on the trail.
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  25. #25
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    Anyone have any updates on Pete B. And the other bikers?

  26. #26
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    Quote Originally Posted by bdundee View Post
    Anyone have any updates on Pete B. And the other bikers?
    Nothing yet, waiting very patiently here!

  27. #27
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    Quote Originally Posted by JordyB View Post
    Nothing yet, waiting very patiently here!
    Kathi's AM update said that no bikers had left Luce's yet.

    Interesting dynamic going forward--assuming that a few sleds or mushers pass by to pack down the trail.

    Normally the pack is spread thin by the time the hit the Yentna, and the lead pack slowly dwindles as they progress up the river.

    Once a new trail is established, there will only be that one trail to ride--no side trails, nor potentially softer or firmer lines to worry about. With the predicted colder temps coming, any new trail *should* set up firm within half a day. And with the race effectively being restarted from Luce's, that could mean a paceline and a pack mentality, such as it were, freighttraining up the river.

    Meanwhile Tim Hewitt is likely closing in on Skwentna.

  28. #28
    Fat!Drunk!Slow!
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    Thought this was funny!!!

    Just posted on ITI's facebook page:
    Iditarod Trail Invitational
    Status Update from Shell Lake this morning:
    By Michael Schoder
    "Just shoveled a 3ft drift out in front of outhouse door only to find all of inside of outhouse packed with snow. Glad it wasn't that urgent! Won't be the last time I use shovel today, just the first."

  29. #29
    Caveman
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    hope Luce's had a good stock of meatballs

  30. #30
    Fat!Drunk!Slow!
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    More Facebook updates:

    Iditarod Trail Invitational
    "Bikers were just bouncing in and out Yentna Station this morning since they had a good night's rest at Luce's Lodge just 9 miles downriver."

  31. #31
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    Looks like they just updated their leader board.

  32. #32
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bearbait View Post
    hope Luce's had a good stock of meatballs
    Updated leaderboard tells a lot more than my uninformed guesses.

    Pete and Phil are pushing hard to catch Tim.

    Gonna be a wild few days on the leaderboard. Slow moving but persistent leaders will eke out some time on their chasers, at the cost of not resting. Those whom are resting more now (Oatley, Warkentin, others) could blaze their way back into contention once the trail firms up--especially in the cold at night.

    Game on.

  33. #33
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    Another great update!!!

    "It has already been a busy morning with our high call volume and arranging evacuations. Kathi was on the radio this morning on Talk of Alaska discussing why the race shouldn't be tamed. Truly this race separates the weedend warriors from the meticulous great althetes. Not only are the mental and physical challenges overwelming but the adverse weather conditions as well. The Alaska frontier has thrown fastballs at these racers and struck several out already. Yet 37 have kept their defense strong and have managed to make line drives to first base. Tim Hewitt leads the way on foot, something not seen in over ten years in this race history. Peter Basinger and Phil Hofstetter on bikes are slowly creeping up on Tim and taking advantage of the break in better trail conditions. Altogether 29 racers have checked out of Yetna Station and are pushing on. These challenges aren't about never falling but how quickly one gets back up. Winds are forecasted this afternoon to blow on the open terrain possibly drifting snow over the trail yet again. Michael Schoder has reported to us that himself and four snowmachines and Michael pulling a groomer will be out to pack the trail for our athletes from Shell Lake to Skwentna." Dani Muldoon/HQ Chickaloon

  34. #34
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    So nice to see (esp from this perspective) a real winter return to this great event.

    The last few years saw blue skies, warm temps, and hardpacked trails, and still some racers complained it was too difficult.

    They weren't wrong, they were just at the wrong race.

    Iditarod (the sled dog race) has been at this a lot longer, evolving the rules to meet the racers instead of vice versa. The result is that the race keeps getting easier for the mushers--massive amounts of grooming and brush clearing, bridge building, wholesale realigment to avoid more difficult sections, the addition of trailside cabins, satellite tracking, etc. etc.

    The ITI has eschewed these things largely because Bill and Kathi were racers themselves, and appreciate how important it is to keep things simple. It's not about how fast you can go from A->B, it's about how you react to all of the little setbacks (in training and in the race) that come up along the way. Making the race easier defeats the purpose--elevating your own game to match the needs of backcountry Alaska is the point.

    Nice to have at least one checkpoint worth of in/out times to look at, eh?

  35. #35
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    Pete's in 2nd place now! I would put my greenbacks on him but I've only got one (which he built) and I'm kind of attached to it. Still totally rooting for Pete however.
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    Go Tim Go!

    In '01 I didn't catch Tim until the Burn, then went on to win on my trusty 1x1. The same conditions as this year so who knows what will happen.

    Pat

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    Rainy?

    Has anyone heard what the avalanche conditions are like in the Pass? Hate to bring it up but it's been one of those years...

    Pat

  38. #38
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    I can't wait to see the racer's pics. Here's one of my favorites from Jeff going over Rainy Pass in 2009. He had a commanding lead but had to wait out the storm for two days in a cabin with a partial roof. Several riders caught up to him. They finally had enough waiting and a small group set off to break trail. Jeff went on to win the race that year.
    Uncommonly tough guys, all of them.
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    If he had drilled his rims a bit more he could have ridden right there.

    Well, maybe not...

    But if he had one of those new school Sandman frames he *definitely* could have. Definitely.


  40. #40
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    I don't know, I don't think these fatbikes work at all. He'd have been better off with some skinny 29er studs to cut down through the snow.

  41. #41
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    Quote Originally Posted by anthony.delorenzo View Post
    I don't know, I don't think these fatbikes work at all. He'd have been better off with some skinny 29er studs to cut down through the snow.
    No no, needs a cyclocross bike with even skinnier tyres.






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    that was a good time. pushing down the pass in waist deep snow for 20 hours to get 7 miles while we looked up at the first few skiers as they went by us. believe it or not we had an awesome group of folks with great spirits for that particular slog.

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    In 2002, Ray Molino was touring the trail and as we were slogging through the pass, he pulled out a video camera (2002 sized) and began to film the scenery. It put everything into perspective. It didn't make me any faster though.

  44. #44
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    What we need are ITI action figures… for the kids!
    Last edited by dosbugs; 02-29-2012 at 02:28 PM.
    61° North

  45. #45
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    Latest update to the leaderboard is quite telling: Tim Hewitt strolled into Finger Lake just after midnight. That's ~90 minutes after Pete and Phil left Skwentna.

    Translation? Tim has a ~40 mile lead on them.

    The question we'd all like answered is: What's the trail like between Skwentna, Shell Lake, and Finger? The rumors of rampant grooming by the spouse of one of the runners, coupled with heavy, wet snow followed by a cold snap, would lead me to believe that it has firmed up bunches and while Pete and Phil may not be big ringing it, they should at least be *riding* again.

    Bet that'll feel nice.

    Huge number of scratches at Skwentna--including Jeff and Heather, Eric and Lou, Tim Stern, and Jay Cable. Whole lotta experience in that crew--for them to quit there must have been a very good reason...

    Looking over the rest of the leaderboard it appears that most have geared down into 'be patient, it'll get better' mode. Smart, that.

    Staying tuned...

    MC

  46. #46
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    I just got a call from Tim Berntson, whose feet are so bad he can hardly walk. Going to lunch now with Jeff, Heather and Tim Stern. They said it will be difficult for most to make the time cut now. Pete was out of food at Luce's. I hope they had enough candy bars for him. Wishing all the racers the best.
    Speedway Cycles owner http://fatbackbikes.com

  47. #47
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    I must root for Ausilia Vistarini of Italy, who looks to be the only woman biker left. Tuff stuff!

  48. #48
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    In case some here haven't seen it yet, Craig Medred wrote a piece about the race yesterday.

    Alaska Dispatch.

    There are a few pictures included.

  49. #49
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    Tired of pushing, Fairbanks racers bail out of Iditarod Trail Invitational
    by TimMowry

    If you want evidence of just how tough the going is in this year’s Iditarod Trail Invitational, consider that Fairbanks cyclist Jeff Oatley bailed out of the race on Wednesday. So did his wife, Heather Best, and fellow Fairbanks cyclist Jay Cable.
    All three Fairbanks riders pulled out of the race after reaching Skwentna, 100 miles into the 350-mile human-powered race along the Iditarod Trail from Knik to McGrath.
    Oatley, a past winner and annual contender in the race, has never scratched before. And while Best was a rookie to the Invitational, she was considered one of the favorites to win the women’s title.
    But after spending almost three days pushing their fat-tired bikes through deep snow left from a blizzard that coincided with the start of the race on Sunday, the cyclists evidently decided they’d had enough.
    They weren’t alone. Also scratching in Skwentna on Wednesday were Louise Kobin, who holds the course record for women cyclists and figured to be Best’s main competition, as well as Tim Stern and Eric Warkentin.
    Twenty of the 49 racers who started the race have abandoned it, most of them cyclists, after two feet of snow buried the trail and reduced pedaling to pushing. While fat-tired bikes meant for riding on snow typically dominate the race, it’s the hikers/snowshoers who are out in front this year.
    Tim Hewitt, a 57-year-old lawyer from Pennsylvania who has hiked the entire Iditarod Trail six times, was leading the race as of Wednesday. Hewitt arrived at WinterLake Lodge at 12:35 a.m. Wednesday. WinterLake Lodge is about 130 miles into the race.
    Hewitt as almost 4 1/2 hours in front of fellow hiker Geoff Roes, a top ultra-distance runner from Juneau.
    The only skier in the race, Andrea Cavagnet of Italy, was in third place, about 11 hours behind Hewitt.
    The first bikers, five-time champ Peter Basinger and Phil Hofstetter, were in sixth and seventh places, having left Skwentna at 1:30 a.m. Wednesday.

    From: Fairbanks Daily News-Miner

  50. #50
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    Exciting

    This is getting exciting-can Tim actually pull it off? I know Pete will do all he can to finish first, but can he do it? What I thought would be a boring race to read about after the slow-paced start is becoming a fun one to follow.

    May the best man win!

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