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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
 

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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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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.


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

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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.
 

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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.
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...
 

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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...:D) 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.
 

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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...:D) 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.
 

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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.
 

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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.
 

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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.
 

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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"
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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.
 
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