The race record in the Iditarod Trail Invitational was shattered and shattered again on Wednesday morning when Jay Petervary of Idaho rolled into McGrath, Alaska, to lop more than 10 hours off the former fastest finish in Alaska's ultramarathon of human endurance along the famed Iditarod Trail.
Blessed with favorable weather and trail conditions, Petervary hammered the last stretch of trail between Nikolai and McGrath to hold off Tim Bernston by 34 minutes and Jeff Oatley of Fairbanks by 51 minutes. Petervary’s new course record was 2 days, 19 hours and 16 minutes.
The top five finishers are all more than nine hours faster than the 2007 race record held by Peter Basinger, an Anchorage fat-biker who's dominated the event for years. It marks the first time Iditarod Invitational riders have dipped below the 3-day barrier.
Petervary won by pedaling rather than resting. He pedaled “out of Nikolai (about 50 miles from the McGrath finish line) into the subzero darkness — stoic grimace, thousand-yard stare, and ice crusted to his headgear. Entering his third night without rest and facing uncertain trail conditions on the snaking Kuskokwim River, Petervary knew he had to hold a steady pace to stave off being caught by four other cyclists who arrived at the 300-mile checkpoint at the same time he did, just before 1 a.m. Wednesday, according to the website Half Past Done.
Petervay pulled out at 1:24 a.m. for his final push to the finish line. The chase pack didn’t leave until about 3:50 a.m. after a short rest – and nearly caught him. The final hours of a race that regularly sees brutal weather was blessed with good weather. Temperatures went no lower than minus-10 degrees, and a wind was at the bikers’ backs.
Previous race record holder Peter Basinger was due to arrive in Nikolai on Wednesday morning.
Another record may fall soon. Colorado cyclist Eszter Horanyi was leading the women’s bicycle division and looked to be in position to break the women’s record of 3 days, 22 hours, 20 minutes held by California cyclist Lou Kobin.