After the big blow subsided, Anchorage's Kevin Murphy hit the Iditarod Trail north of Knik on Saturday with legs spinning and fat-bike tires rolling.
A day and a half later, having ridden to the edge of the Alaska Range barely visible on the horizon north of the one-time Knik Arm port, he was back from a 225-mile bike ride to claim victory in the second running of the Iditasport.
Aided by pavement-hard trails in a winter of little snow, Murphy averaged almost 6 mph on the jaunt across the Susitna River valley, up the frozen Yentna River, and on to the turnaround at Shell Lake Lodge. Second-place finisher Clint Hodges III finished only about two hours back. He'd been leading the race until near the end when both he and Murphy got lost on the maze of trails around Knik.
And behind those two, others were struggling. Of the 17 cyclists, runners and skiers who signed up for the full-course Iditasport, six had bagged it by Monday. The 18 competitors in the Iditasport light -- a 100 kilometer (62 mile) jaunt -- fared better.
Led by Kara Oney of Anchorage, all had finished by Monday with only four scratches. Nine competitors in the longer event, including one of only two skiers, remained on the trail Monday.
Iditasport traces its origins to the Iditaski and the Iditashoe, 1980s ski and snowshoe races that were offshoots of the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race. Cyclists were later invited to join the party, competitors were lumped under the Iditasport banner, and the wheel came to dominate.
Since fat-tired bikes started showing up a decade ago, the Iditasport -- like Southcentral's other big muscle-powered, winter competitions -- has gone largely to the wheel.
All of the competitors in the 100-K this year were on bikes, while the 225-miler attracted a few runners and two skiers. A race that once went all the way to the community of McGrath on the north side of the Alaska Range, Iditasport is now something of a tuneup for the Iditarod Trail Invitational, which goes to McGrath on March 1.
Not all competitors stop there, however. Some keep going for almost 1,000 miles to Nome. The Invitational's 50-entrant field is full, and Alaskans, once the mainstay of winter races in Alaska, find themselves a minority.
More than 60 percent of the racers now come from out of state, with the visitors split almost equally between foreigners and Americans from other states.
Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly said second-place finisher Clint Hodges finished about 12 hours behind Murphy.
Alaska Dispatch Publishing