Thanks to Ian Munro for pointing out our Alaska story was half-baked, we’ve now got the full facts from the husky’s mouth.
The event Andy Heading and Alan Sheldon will be racing in is the Iditarod Invitational. This is a new event set up by previous Iditarod Extreme competitor and Alaskan wilderness guide Bill Merchant, and 2001 Iditabike Extreme winner Pat Irwin.
The event will use the same Northern loop 1160 mile Knik to Nome course as the Iditarod Impossible, but the two events will run a week apart. If you’re wondering why this new ‘exclusive’ version of the race has sprung up, the ‘Invitational’ is designed to address competitors’ concerns that the original race had a ‘gung ho’ attitude. Seeing as the organiser of the original race has commented in the past that he was disappointed that no-one had yet died and that that would provide the best PR possible, we’re not surprised.
The Iditarod Invitational is billed as “a no frills, non-profit race put on by racers for racers” and has no prize money but a race fee of only $500 rather than $2500. As last year’s winner of the Iditarod Extreme, Andy Heading, told us, “you don’t do this sort of thing for the money”. The compulsory first night stop has also been dropped in the invitational event, as it’s presumed the Alaskan and other endurance hardened competitors invited will know what their own limits are.
Proper snowmobile safety support will be on hand, but according to Andy “the whole idea of the Invitational is to avoid babysitting inexperienced riders on the trail or having to rescue people at the 300 mile mark because they’ve forgotten to bring spare gloves.”
Andy himself is looking forward eagerly to the race as he’ll be the first rider to complete the southern and the northern routes if he makes it. “It should be a really good race this year. We’re more experienced, but the route goes significantly closer to the Arctic Circle than last year’s southern course so it’s going to be colder. The winner of Iditarod Impossible 2000, Mike Curiak, is also competing again, so it could be very close.”
A shorter (only 360 miles through massive snowdrifts and minus fifty temperatures) Invitational Extreme event is also being run. For more details head for www.alaskaultrasport.com (although it seems to be frostbitten at the moment). Don’t expect to have a chance of being invited unless you have a truly epic adventure and endurance CV behind you though. Thinking nothing of riding from Matlock to Skegness and back as a night time training jaunt – which is what Andy and Alan have been doing – is a bare minimum.
Andy and Alan are supported by Orbit bikes, Patagonia, MSR, Black Diamond and Salomon equipment.