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Iditarod Invitational: Basinger wins, Kobin sets new women's records

Craig Medred
The Alaskan version of cycling's peloton: a "push-o-ton."
Craig Medred photo

On a hard, fast trail, cyclist Peter Basinger pedaled and pushed from Knik across the Alaska Range to McGrath to notch his fifth win in the Iditarod Trail Invitational, but he missed setting a new course record by about an hour as Interior temperatures plunging to 30 degrees below zero slowed everyone and everything.

Except maybe Californian Louise Kobin. She did what Basinger couldn't quite do and grabbed two records, becoming the first woman to break four days in the Invitational and setting a new women's record of 3 days, 22 hours and 20 minutes for the 350-mile race from Knik to McGrath.

Kobin, an experienced ultra-distance racer Outside, was fourth overall. It was the best finish by an Outsider in a race dominated by Alaskans. Though more than half the field of cyclists, runner and skiers -- the Invitational is open to all muscle-powered athletes -- Alaskans controlled the race.

Basinger led Jeff Oatley from Fairbanks across the finish line by only 25 minutes. Greg Matyas, owner of Speedway Cycles in Anchorage, was in third about two hours back. Fourth went to Jay Petervary, who is headed on up the Iditarod Trail to Nome. Less than 30 minutes behind Petervary was Bill Fleming of Anchorage, one of the owners of Chain Reaction Cycles.

Matyas and Fleming are not only competitors on the trail, but competitors in the now highly competitive fat-tired bike business. Both companies have their own brands of boutique bikes for snow and sand riding.

Fat-tired biked have dominated the Invitational for years thanks to the convergence of two technologies: Snowmachines and bikes built to accommodate tires nearly four-inches wide. The former can put down trails just about anywhere there is snow in Alaska.

Once those trails harden up, something which happens naturally whenever newly fallen snow is disturbed in extreme cold temperatures, fat-tired bikes can ride the snowmachine trails. At least on downhills and flats. Uphill riding can still be difficult due to lack of traction, but despite that, competitors in this year's Invitational appeared to be riding the bike a lot more than pushing the bike.

Newly fallen snow, or snowmachine tracks put in too soon before the race, can, however, kill the riding. The Invitational has in some years become famous for its push-o-tons, the Alaska equivalent of the peloton.

Contact Craig Medred at craig(at)alaskadispatch.com.