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Nine 'toughest races in the world' include two unexpected Alaskan classics

Alaska Dispatch
Iditarod Trail Invitational racers push their bikes through heavy snow near Flathorn Lake.
Craig Medred photo
Englishman Bill Dent gets on the satellite phone to call his wife from the deck of the snow-buried Yentna Station Roadhouse north of Anchorage on Tuesday as Sebastiano Favaro from Italy prepares his fat-tired bike for another push north in the Iditarod Trail Invitational.
Craig Medred photo
Race, over, tired and beaten by the Iditarod Trail, Alberto Villaverde gets some help from Willow pilot Barry Stanley in loading his fat-tired bike for a long ride home to Italy.
Craig Medred photo
Peter Basinger, Tim Bernston, and Phil Hofstetter take a break near Lake Creek on the Yentna River about 75 miles into the 2012 Iditarod Trail Invitational.
Craig Medred photo
We ride! After days of bike pushing, Englishman Steve Wilkinson finally got on his bike to ride on the Iditarod Trail to Shell Lake Wednesday. The competitor in the Iditarod Trail Invitational did about 100 yards before he decided the trail was still soft and the riding too much work. He jumped off and resumed pushing. The finish line remained more than 200 miles in north in McGrath on the other side of the Alaska Range. A veteran of the 2011 Invitational, Wilkinson was thinking of dropping out of this one. A couple dozen others had already given up.
Craig Medred photo
Fat-tire cyclist Pavel Richtr from the Czech Republic pushes past the Shell Hills in the Iditarod Trail Invitational on Wednesday. He was working his way toward the Alaska Range as a pair of snowshoers -- Pennsyvlanian Tim Hewitt and Alaskan Geoff Roes -- led the race toward Rainy Pass. The race is normally dominated by the cyclists, but heavy snow and soft trail had turned the table on them, and they were chasing a gang of snowshoers.
Craig Medred photo
The weather finally cut the Iditarod Trail Invitational a break late Wednesday. Fat-tire cyclist Dave Kelley pushes his bike across the big swamp north of Skwentna in the shadow of the Alaska Range. Trail conditions were so soft cyclists still weren't riding, but it was a much nicer day to push.
Craig Medred photo
Anchorage's Billy Koitzsch (http://www.arcticcycles.com/) leaves the Skwentna Roadhouse on Wednesday with his take-apart fat bike in a sled. The sled rolls up when not in use. Koitzsch, who plans to travel the entire 1,000 miles of the Iditarod Trail to Nome, plans to roll the sled up, tie it to the bike and start riding when the trails firm up. They were still better for his snowshoes on Wednesday. Three Iditarod Trail Invitational competitors remained in Skwentna when Koitzsch left, but they were all talking about scratching.
Craig Medred photo
Dave Kelley, an Anchorage bicycle technician, might have been running last in the Iditarod Trail Invitational on March 2, 2012, but he was all smiles as he strapped on his snowshoes to start the climb from the Happy River to Shirley Lake.
Craig Medred photo
Reached in a snowstorm near the headwaters of the Happy River high in the Alaska Range on March 1, the improbable leader of Iditarod Invitational had only three words to describe the situation, and they won't be repeated here.
Craig Medred photo
Geoff Roes on the march toward Rainy Pass March 1.
Craig Medred photo
Iditarod Invitational veteran Pete Basinger on the roll through the Alaska Range March 1.
Craig Medred photo
Phil Hofstetter and Pete Basinger chase the Iditarod Trail north in pursuit of Invitational leader Tim Hewitt on March 1. Tripods mark the trail across the barren, windswept gap in the Alaska Range leading up to Rainy Pass.
Craig Medred photo
Fat-tire bikers push along the 2012 Iditarod Trail Invitational
Craig Medred photo
Reached in a snowstorm near the headwaters of the Happy River high in the Alaska Range on March 1, the improbable leader of Iditarod Invitational had only three words to describe the situation, and they won't be repeated here.
Craig Medred photo
Robin MacAlpine and Pavel Richtr pause near the confluence of the Susitna and Yentna Rivers during the 2012 Iditarod Trail Invitational.
Craig Medred photo

Adventure Journal has compiled a list of nine of the world's "toughest races" including two held here in Alaska, but probably not the two you're thinking of.

According to Adventure Journal, "if you build something painful, they will come." And so it goes that in the 21st century the agony of adventure racing, where the creme de la creme battle for glowing titles and often their own lives, has taken much of the world by storm resulting in some of the most remarkable feats of humanity.

Alaska's contribution? Not the Idtarod Sled dog race or the Alaska Wilderness Classic, but instead:

  • The 6633 Extreme Winter Ultramarthon: A 350-mile footrace where racers carry or drag their own supplies through the frozen Arctic Circle. The race begins at a remote outpost off the Klondike Highway in Alaska and goes north through the Arctic Circle, finishing in the small Northwest Territories, Canada community of Tuktoyaktuk.
  • The Iditarod Trail Invitational: A mixed race that travels 350 miles of the Iditarod National Historic Trail in February. Snow cyclists, skiers and snowshoers compete against each other and must finish their journey in a week or less.

Adventure Journal rounds out the "toughest" list with:

1. The Tour Divide/ Great Divide Race: the world's largest unsupported off-road cycling race spans the western and southwestern United States from Roosville, Montana to Antelope Wells, New Mexico.

2. Furnace Creek 508: A 508 mile road cycling race that covers some 36,000 feet of elevation gain, roughly four consecutive mountain states of the Tour de France, through the desert of California. Competitors must be invited and finish within 48 hours.

3. Deca Ironman: This year's Deca will take place in Italy. The race is summed up as 30 Ironman-distance triathlons in 30 days.

4. The Barkley 100: The Barkely is a marathon ... of sorts. The 60 mile trial run tramps through 100 miles of the Frozen Head State Park in Tennessee with one Mount Everest equivalent (54,200 feet) elevation gain.

5. Texas Water Safari: An unsupported 100 hour canoeing race of 260 river miles, beginning in San Marcos, Texas and down to the Gulf of Mexico.

6. Vendee Globe: Is a solo unsupported around-the-world sailing race that takes place every four years from November to February.

7. Self-Transcendence 3100: Uh, that's a name, right? Transcendence is considered the world's hardest running race because it's made up of 5,649 laps covering just one city block in Queens, New York. The race is run over a 52-day period, with athletes covering about 60 miles a day.