Two-time champion Chris Olds and partner Mike Morgan set the early pace Sunday in the 30th anniversary edition of the Iron Dog.
The pair was the first to reach McGrath, about 300 miles into the 2,031-mile snowmachine race across Alaska. They arrived at 7:05 p.m., a half-hour ahead of Tyler Aklestad and Tyson Johnson.
By 9 p.m., eight teams were in McGrath and all had declared a 14-hour layover. By Monday morning they'll be back on the trail, headed to the halfway point in Nome.
The early arrivals in McGrath all averaged speeds in the mid- to high-30 mph range, with Olds and Morgan averaging 38.83 mph on their Polaris Switchbacks. Some teams, including Olds-Morgan and Aklestad-Johnson, averaged speeds of 60 mph or better on the trip from Big Lake to Skwentna.
Olds and Morgan are in their second year as partners. Olds, 41, of Eagle River, won the race in 2010 and 2011 with Tyler Huntington. In 2012, Olds placed fourth with Morgan, a 27-year-old who grew up in Nome and now lives in Anchorage.
Huntington was seriously injured earlier this year when he was thrown from his machine while training on the Norton Sound coast. His partner, Evan Booth, found a replacement in Doug Dixon. They were not among the first eight teams in McGrath on Sunday.
Also in McGrath by 9 p.m. Sunday were Brian Dick and Eric Quam (8:24 p.m. arrival), Brad George-Aaron Bartel (8:27 p.m.), Marc McKenna-Dusty Van Meter (8:31 p.m.), Scott Davis-Todd Palin (8:39 p.m.), Ryan Sottosanti-Andrew Zwink (9 p.m.) and Todd Minnick-Nick Olstad (9:14 p.m.).