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Craig Medred

SKWENTNA -- As the nighttime temperature dropped toward minus-20 and tentacles of cold sneaked along the floor to warn of the world outside every time someone opened the door, the leaders in the Iditarod Trail Invitational shared one concern: "Where's Pete?"

The Pete in question was six-time champion Peter Basinger, a now 33-year-old cyclist who grew up in Anchorage to become a long-distance endurance racer of some note. He held the record for the 350-mile Invitational race to McGrath until it fell to Jay Petervary of Idaho last year...

Craig Medred

YENTNA STATION -- As darkness settled over the white silence in the cottonwoods surrounding the lodge here and the cold came creeping down from the south slope of the Alaska Range, the cyclists at the front of the Iditarod Trail Invitational were rolling north as if on a winter expressway. After all the talk about the condition of the Iditarod Trail in the snow-short winter of 2014, what Invitational competitors found was a hard-packed surface friendly to fat-tired bikes and running shoes. Ice had frozen rough in places like the famed cobbles of Paris-Robauix, but what is a challenge to ride on skinny bicycle tires in France is easy on fat tires in Alaska....

Craig Medred

The world's longest, toughest snowmachine race was parked in the far-from-anywhere Yukon River village of Tanana on Friday night with a new set of leaders, a pair of two-time defending champs resurgent, and the halfway frontrunners struggling.

Hitting average speeds of up to 86 mph between Yukon checkpoints, the Polaris-riding duo of Todd Minnick and Nick Olstad from Wasilla roared into the community of about 300 shortly before 2:30 p.m. to grab the lead in the 2,000-mile race.

Not far behind them were defending champs Marc McKenna from Anchorage and Dusty VanMeter from Kasilof on their Ski-Doos, with the halfway leaders in the race from Big Lake to Nome to Fairbanks -- Mike Morgan from Nome and Chris Olds from Eagle River on their Polarises -- even farther back...

Craig Medred

The truly Idita-crazy are descending on Anchorage from all over the globe this week, and, no, these aren't sled-dog racers. Those folks hit the Iditarod Trail proper on March 2 with up to 16 canine friends, big sleds packed with survival gear, and a volunteer Iditarod Air Force watching over them in case of trouble...

Craig Medred

For serious fantasy entertainment, take a look at "Ultimate Survival Alaska," the sort of spellbinding spectacle you might get if the late Soapy Smith produced " The Amazing Race ." Not since Frederick Cook made the bogus claim to have reached the summit of Mount McKinley in 1906 has anyone pulled off an Alaska expedition scam with quite the panache of "Ultimate Survival Alaska."

"Ultimate Survival" is the most unreal of reality shows. National Geographic Channel has taken fictional reality, or real fiction, or whatever you call this 21st-century blend of true and phony, to places the founders of the National Geographic Society could never imagine...

Craig Medred

The February sun was still bright over the Bering Sea ice outside of Nome when the leaders of the world's longest, toughest snowmobile race rolled into the coastal community late Tuesday afternoon.

Behind them was 1,100 miles of rough, sometimes snowless trail stretching to the Southcentral Alaska community of Big Lake, where the race began Sunday. Despite the conditions, race leaders Chris Olds, a 42-year-old construction project manager from the Anchorage suburb of Eagle River, and Mike Morgan, a 28-year-old welder from Nome, averaged 50 mph on their way to Nome...

Craig Medred

A gang of seven was making its way west along the Yukon River at nearly 50 mph Monday night as the Iron Dog snowmachine race roared toward the halfway point in Nome. Racers will reach the town of golden sands beside the Bering Sea on Tuesday.

Paced by Polaris riders Chris Olds, 42, from Eagle River, and Mike Morgan, 28, from Nome, they shot across the Interior from McGrath to Ruby during the daylight hours with defending champions Marc McKenna from Anchorage and Dusty Van Meter from Kasilof close behind on their Skidoos...

Craig Medred

In a cloud of dust -- snow dust, that is -- the Iron Dog, the longest and toughest snowmachine race in the world, stormed out of Big Lake on Sunday morning.

Concerns about the lack of winter in the Southcentral region of the 49th state were left in the swirling snow behind the sleds. The temperature was in the teens, and though the dusting of fresh snow didn't amount to much, it was enough to help cool the snowmachines' engines and lubricate the slides on which their tracks turn...

Craig Medred
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Photos: Iron Dog gets underway from snow-sparse Southcentral Alaska

In a cloud of dust -- snow dust, that is -- the Iron Dog, the longest and toughest snowmachine race in the world, stormed out of Big Lake on Sunday morning...

Craig Medred,Loren Holmes

As the world's longest, toughest snowmachine race revved up for its start in Big Lake Sunday, the report from the far side of the Alaska Range 350 miles to the north was that the Iditarod Trail is rough, but entirely passable.

"It just needs snow," said Brian Webb, one of 26 riders in the Iron Dog's trail class -- which runs an abbreviated, non-competitive race to Nome -- who left civilization Friday and were in McGrath, a tiny community on the Kuskokwim River Sunday morning...

Craig Medred