The Iron Dog exacted a cruel amount of punishment Monday, knocking out five teams, two because of injury. In perhaps the most serious of the day’s events, two men following the race were injured when their plane crashed near Rainy Pass.
2009 champions Todd Minnick and Nick Olstad were among those tossed off the Iditarod Trail on the second day of the 2,031-mile snowmachine race across Alaska. Mechanical problems ended their race near Ophir.
The race leaders were on hold Monday night. Leaders Tyler Aklestad and Tyson Johnson were taking an eight-hour layover in Kaltag along with two of the teams chasing them.
Two more frontrunners were taking eight-hour layovers in Galena, the checkpoint before Kaltag. And back in Ruby taking their eight-hour layover were Chris Olds and Mike Morgan, the second team to reach that checkpoint earlier Monday, trailing Aklestad and Johnson by 14 minutes.
Behind the leaders was a trail filled with busted snowmachines and battered bodies.
Two teams went down with injuries. Rookies Ray Chvastasz and Jens Hopson scratched due to frostbite outside McGrath, where temperatures dipped to minus 20 overnight. Rookies Chad Dow and Chris Kruse scratched in McGrath with an unspecified injury.
Two rookie teams pulled out with mechanical problems near Rohn -- Brad Dietrich and Tim Jauhola, and Harold Egan and Brian Jurenka.
A total of six teams have scratched, leaving 34 to battle for more than $200,000 in prize money.
The race is celebrating its 30th anniversary this year. It’s a dangerous venture, one that requires riders to ride in teams of two for safety.
Monday it proved dangerous for two men who were following the race by air. The plane, piloted by Robert Stone, crashed, injuring Stone and passenger Jason Wichman, an Iron Dog veteran who pulled out of this year’s race ahead of time because of an injury.
Aklestad and Johnson on Monday night were leading the charge to Nome, the halfway point of the race that began Sunday at Big Lake.
They reached Kaltag at 5:05 p.m. Monday, 20 minutes ahead of Brian Dick and Eric Quam. Brad George and Aaron Bartel pulled in at 5:48. All three teams declared eight-hour layovers.
Behind them in Galena, taking their eight-hour layovers, were Marc McKenna and Dusty Van Meter, who arrived at the checkpoint at 4:36 p.m., and Scott Davis and Todd Palin, who arrived at 4:42 p.m. Olds and Morgan were further back taking their eight-hour rest at Ruby.
Racers are required to rest a total of 30 hours en route to Nome. They must take three eight-hour layovers, plus a six-hour break that most take in combination with one of the eight-hour stops. The six top teams, for instance, all took 14-hour layovers in McGrath.
The third and final eight-hour layover comes once teams reach the Bering Sea coast; they can stop in Unalakleet, Koyuk or White Mountain.