I went to Jason Petervary’s house last week to talk to him about the Iditarod Trail Invitational (AKA, Iditabike) he will be competing in on February 24th in Alaska. Jay is an accomplished adventure racer, having competed in multiple Eco-Challenge and Primal Quest events, as well as being pretty much good at everything that revolves around endurance….cycling, skiing, running…etc. To be honest, Jay actually inspired me to get into racing and enter my first trail running event…The Snow King Hill Climb.
The Iditabike is a human powered race that follows the first 350 miles of the Iditarod Sled Dog Race course from Wasilla to McGrath, AK. Although competitors can compete by any means they wish (as long as it is human powered, i.e.…running, skiing), the cyclists typically prevail. The race is limited to 50 people, so it is a very select group.
The record for the race is 3 days, 6hrs, by Mike Curiak in 2005, but times can run well over a week, so many factors play into individual results. The Iditarod dog-sled race starts just a week later, and some racers will likely get lapped. And if 350 miles isn’t enough, there is an 1100 mile option that continues all the way to Nome…just like the dogs. Weather conditions will be the main concern. The trail is packed…but not if it snows for a few days. And what if the temps drop to below zero…talk about suffering! The race has a total of 6 checkpoints and 2 drops, where the racers can stash items like food, batteries, and extra heat-packs. Jay said speeds should average from 4-8 mph, but can drop to 2 mph, or slower, if you’re forced off the bike, pushing it through fresh snow.
Obviously this is a gear intensive sport, but it is really about making it as simple as possible and keeping it light. Jay will need to bring everything he needs to survive if things hit the fan. Meaning he must carry a stove, sleeping bag, bivy, etc, at all times. Some things need to be easily assessable and other things stashed away, balancing out the load. His bike, with gear, weights in around 60lbs…not including food and water.
Jay’s bike, a Surly Pugsley is totally specific for riding on snow and has tires twice the width of a normal mountain bike tire. It only has two small chain rings…for power and climbing. Mounted with two racks and a frame pack, it can hold lots of gear. One of the things that I thought was impressive was Jay’s footwear creation. Combining bike shoes (two sizes too big), super-gaiters, Sorel pack-boot insulation, and lots of aqua-seal, he has created totally waterproof and warm protection for his feet. Anyone who has competed in an endurance event knows the importance of having good feet, so I though these were important. Jay doesn’t miss the little details either. Even his one brake lever (rear only) is insulated…nice.
This will not be Jay’s first snow-bike race. Last winter, he competed in a similar event, the Susitna 100, and won. Jay is also using this race as a stepping stone for the Great Divide Race (GDR) this June. The GDR is a mountain bike event that goes from the Canadian to Mexican boarder, all within 50 miles of the Continental Divide Trail. Are you kidding me…talk about saddle sores! Luckily, Jackson Hole is a great place to train for this kind of event. Jay has been able to test his system and fine tune his gear with multiple rides (including overnights) on the miles of groomed trails in the Gros Ventre, as well as Grand Teton and Yellowstone National Parks.
Having known Jay for over 6 years now, I know he knows how to suffer. I’ve even been his partner in a couple Elk Mountain Traverse races and when he commits to something…watch out! He even has some tricks up his sleeve that I’m not allowed to reveal, so look for him to be very competitive. Jay said that the race can be followed ‘real-time’ through a link on the race’s website, so please check it out come race day. Good luck Jason…just don’t ride in the skin track, aye! 😉