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History of Winter Biking and Winter Races in Alaska
The Iditarod Trail Invitational follows the historic Iditarod Trail. The famous sled dog route runs 1000 miles through frozen Alaska every winter since 1973 when Joe Redington senior started the first Iditarod from Knik to Nome when dog mushing was fading.
Today it is a thin white line in the snow that only exists for about two months during the Iditarod Sled Dog Race and the Iditarod Trail Invitational races and crosses swamps, lakes, rivers and frozen tundra, mountain passes, across roadless wilderness in Alaska.
Using bicycles as a means of transportation on Alaska's frozen rivers and tundra might seem a little odd and a crazy idea, but men looking for gold around 1900 that couldn't afford a dog team actually used what was then called a "wheel" and followed the gold rush from Dawson City to Nome on the Yukon River on bicycles.
Documented in Wheels on Ice by Northwest Publishing 1986 by Terrence Cole.
At a time when dog mushing was fading, a man that lived in Knik, Alaska had the idea of a dog mushing race from Knik to Nome. His name was Joe Redington Sr. often called the father of the Iditarod.
He started the Iditarod Sled Dog Race in 1973. A small event at first it has evolved into the world famous sled dog race it is today inspiring millions.
He also encouraged Human Powered races on the Iditarod Trail as well with the foresight that "The Trail" would live on.
The first snowshoe and cross country ski races were coordinated in the early 1980's.
In 1987 Joe Redington Sr. suggested the idea of a 200 mile bike race from Knik to Skwentna as a challenge to the Arctic Bicycle club of Anchorage. And so they did, the Iditabike was born.
Charlie Kelly cronicles the first Iditabike here
Jill Homer has put together a great time line on the development of the Iditabike history on the Iditarod Trail on HalfPastDone.
In 1989 Dan Bull did the first trip to Nome on mountain bikes with three other riders in 21 days. Dan Bull was involved in the human powered events on the Iditarod Trail known as Iditabike, Iditasport and the Extreme and Impossible for more than a decade since the mid 80's until the last year of Iditasport in 2001.
Susitna 100 took over the former race format know as the Iditasport 100 and the course has changed a bit over the years, but still offers the 100 mile qualifier on the Iditarod Trail held every year in February.
The race startet attracting athletes from all over the world.
In the year of 2000 the race followed the entire length of the Iditarod Trail to Nome on the Bering coast.
Mountain Bike Hall of Fame legend John Stamstad dominated the early Iditasport 350 race winning the Extreme 4 times. In recent years Anchorage cyclist Peter Basinger has won the 350 mile event 6 times and this year in 2013 Jay Petervary from Idaho set a new course record and broke the 3 day mark.
Rookie Eszter Horanyi set a new female course record for the 350 mile distance in 2013 as well as a new foot record by Anchorage runner Anne Ver Hoef. Another record in itself is the fact that all 48 racers that started the 350 mile event in 2013 finished in McGrath with 8 continuing on to Nome.
The Iditasport race format included a mandatory overnite 30 miles into the race at Flathorn Lake.
The last year of Iditasport was 2001.
http://www.allyeargear.com/2001/2001-iditasport-extreme-350-pushing-it-to-the-limit/ Todd Scott
In 2003 extremely warm weather prior to the race and during the event forced organizers of the Iditarod Trail Invitational and the Iditarod Dog Sled Race north to the original Serum Run route from Fairbanks to Nome.
This is the most remote and longest winter ultra race in the world.
Evolution of a Winter Endurance Race
The trail is managed by the Bureau of Land Management, but also crosses State Lands and Native Lands. The BLM acts as the trail manager of the historic Iditarod Trail. They build & maintain the shelter cabins and clear & mark the trail with trail grants, etc.
Iditarod Trail History:
Col Goodwin report from 1908:
1908 Report on the Seward to Nome Trail “Sirs: I have the honor to report of the Winter Reconnaissance, Seward to Nome, just completed, under written and verbal instructions of Captain Pillsbury, dated January 4th, 1908 as follows: After having two basket sleds and 18 sets of dog harness made and assembling provisions and camp outfit at Seattle, I sailed on the SS Northwestern on Jan. 16th and reached Seward on…” Download here…
Iditarod Trail Manager
© Alaska Ultra Sport LLC 2013. All rights reserved.
The Iditarod Trail Invitational follows the historic Iditarod Trail. The famous sled dog race runs 1100 miles through frozen Alaska since 1973 in memory of those brave individuals who brought the important serum to Nome in 1925 during a diphterie outbreak. Using bicycles as a means of transportation on Alaska's frozen rivers and tundra might seem a little odd and a crazy idea, but men looking for gold around 1900 that couldn't afford a dog team actually used what they then called a "wheel" and followed the gold rush from Dawson City to Nome on the Yukon River.
Documented in " Wheels on Ice" by Northwest publishing 1986 by Terrence Cole.
Joe Redington is the father of the Iditarod, he started the Iditarod in 1973 when dog teams became less popular and snowmobiles were gaining in popularity.Human powered races followed in the early 1980's with snowshoe, cross country skiing and later mountainbike races.
In 1989 Dan Bull did the first trip to Nome on mountainbikes with three other riders in 22 days.
Human powered competition over the years included the 200 mile Iditabike, 165 mile, 210 mile, 120 mile, Iditaski , snowshoe and ski races and later also foot races on the Iditarod trail at that time. In 1991 the different divitions were merged into one race called the Iditasport.
That year also included a triathlon division. 1992 a runner division was added.
Later those races merged in to one race and the Iditasport bike , ski or run race was born.
The Susitna 100 is a race organization that holds a 100 mile and 50 k race every February.
Very little was known about winter biking gear and everybody made their own.
Today several different winter bikes are made.
The race startet attracting people from all over the world.
In 1997 was the first year of the 350 mile race from Knik Lake to McGrath in the Alaska Interior.The following year Mountainbike legend John Stamstad set the fastest time in the 350 mile event of 3 days 8hours.
In the year of 2000 the race followed the entire length of the Iditarod Trail to Nome on the Bering coast. Mike Curiak holds the record for the fastest time for the 1100 miles 15 days, 1 hour, 15 minutes.
The Iditasport race format included a mandatory overnite 30 miles into the race.
The race is now a straight through race with 7 checkpoints on the route to McGrath and 17 checkpoints on the route to Nome.
Legends like John Stamstad , Roberto Ghidoni and Mike Curiak set records for McGrath (350mile) and Nome(1100 mile).
In 2002 Bill Merchant and Pat Irwin, 2 veteran racers formed Alaska Ultra Sport and every year up to 50 racers from different countries follow the famed trail for 350 miles and 1100 miles.
In 2003 extremely warm weather prior to the race and during the event forced organizers of the Iditarod Trail Invitational and the Iditarod Dog Sled Race north to the original Serum Run route from Fairbanks to Nome, Alaska Ultra Sport started from Nenana and follwed the trail 776 miles to Nome.
This is the most remote and longest winter ultra race in the world. Competitors in the human powered event go through an interview process with race organizers. If they have the skills and knowledge to be self sufficient in cold weather they can enter the race. Prior finishes in races such as the Susitna 100 or the Arrowhead 135 or other winter ultra endurance events in Canada or elsewhere are qualifing events.
Evolution of a Winter Endurance Race