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Team Minnick/Olstad roars to Iron Dog victory

Dermot Cole
Todd Minnick and Nick Olstad, Team #16, prepare to dismount at the Iron Dog's Chena River finish line in downtown Fairbanks, just after winning the race, on Saturday, Feb. 22. This victory is the third for Olstad and the second for Minnick in the 2,000-mile snowmachine race. Dermot Cole photo

FAIRBANKS -- Todd Minnick and Nick Olstad of Wasilla won the 2014 Iron Dog at 12:09 p.m. Saturday, roaring to a stop on the Chena River in downtown Fairbanks after a high-speed run from Tanana.

Olstad, 31, still feeing the effects of an illness that made his entry questionable on race day, said he was still coughing but happy to get his third Iron Dog win, and he enjoyed the 2,000-mile race.

“A lot of it is fun,”  Olstad said of his 10th race. “Especially this trip, we got to see everything because it was sunny. Coming up the Yukon, there were northern lights everywhere. It was pretty neat.”

He said their Polaris snowmachines performed well on the entire run from Big Lake to Nome and then up the Yukon and Tanana rivers.

“We finally got these machines dialed in, and obviously I didn’t have to do anything to them,” he said. “That makes a huge difference if you don’t have to work on them.”

It was the second win for Minnick, 34, who, like Olstad, wore a strip of black duct tape over his nose to prevent frostbite.

“I think we were pretty much in the 90-mile-an-hour range,” Minnick said of the trail from Tanana.

 “We were seeing 50 below on the Yukon, and when you’re doing 90 it’s cold -- I can’t say enough about how cold it was,” he said. “It was only about 20 below when we left, but it tremendously cooled off as we went towards Manley.”

Minnick said the decision to race occurred at 7:30 a.m. on race day, as Olstad was ill with flu-like symptoms. He had a 105.2 fever two days before the race.

“Man, he’s tough,” Minnick said.

“My wife put me in the bathtub in cold water for a while,” Olstad said. “Now it’s just coughing.”

Minnick and Olstad were the first to reach Tanana Friday, clocking average speeds of 86 mph between checkpoints.

Defending champions Marc McKenna and Dusty VanMeter finished second, 22 minutes behind the winners. Mike Morgan and Chris Olds took third place. Full race results are available on the Iron Dog's race tracking page.

Contact Dermot Cole at dermot(at)alaskadispatch.com. Follow him on Twitter @dermotmcole.