Yesterday marked the start of the 2015 Iditarod, this year from Fairbanks where cold and snow was a dramatic departure from the conditions that have plagued Alaska this winter. In this second Fairbanks start, the teams will encounter a much flatter trail that follows a bunch of rivers before reaching Kaltag and the run to the coast.
I have been asked to provide analysis once again, free to the many readers who follow these pages. Some have said they would gladly pay two or three times as much for the enlightened commentary featured here. For example,
last year I declared Jeff King the winner hours before he withdrew from the race near the Safety checkpoint. Where else could a reader find analysis like that?
One reader did express her thoughts about the page at a recent book signing for the recently released “Iditarod, The First Ten Years” A nice lady from Holland looked at my name tag and said “Myron Angstman, you are famous in Holland” Of course I asked her why, and she responded that there are many Iditarod fans who read my stuff in her homeland.
Incidentally, a shameless plug for that book seems appropriate at this point. Assembled by a group of volunteers from the early years of the race, the book captures the event in a thick coffee table book, packed with short stories and tons of artwork. Proceeds from the book go back to the racers with no payment to the contributors. You can read about the book on the
facebook page by that name, where you can also find out how to order it. A sample can be found on my webpage, linked below.
Now, on to analysis. Well not really, because no analysis is possible at this stage of the race. The first day is spent trying survive the spectacle of the start, with many teams passing, lots of viewers along the trail, and excited dogs. By Tuesday early trends emerge, and usually a there are a few teams in positions that surprise us computer racers.
One early observation that is worth noting. Martin Buser started toward the front of the pack with bib number four, and jumped out in front in the early going. Before the race he announced he would not be the rabbit this year,
as he has been in recent years. Tonight he pulled over for a rest, and others have jumped in front so maybe he means it. Being the rabbit has not worked out for Martin, or for that matter most teams who have tried it over
the years. Early exertion when the dogs are excited often leaves often leads to a slower pace later on, and the later on involves hundreds of miles. That allows a steadier paced team to catch and pass the fast starting team in most cases.
This year my reports will once again focus teams from rural Alaska. Bush Alaska is a huge chunk of country with a small population that is well connected despite the distances involved. Kotzebue, Nome and Bethel and the smaller villages surrounding them compete against each other in sports and other activities, but when it comes to competing against folks from elsewhere, there is a common bond. You will detect a bias here for those teams for whom going to town means hopping a jet bound for Anchorage.
Decent racing weather is predicted for the next few days after a ceremonial start in Anchorage that nearly got rained on. Those watching on TV or computer likely saw what looked like nice weather in Anchorage, but a few hours before the start it was pouring rain with low clouds and wind. The snow that was trucked in was mainly slush, but was just enough to get the teams out of town with their important cargo. Each team carried a rider who paid for the thrill of riding for a few miles. That program earns a nice sum of money for the race.
Tonight, we’ll look at some of the early movers in the race and try to make some sense of their strategy.