On his way to winning the 383-mile Iditarod Trail Invitation race, Pete Basinger set a new course record. His three days, five hours, and forty minutes run broke the former record set by Mike Curiak in 2005 (three days, six hours).
Basinger is no newbie to endurance racing; he finished second, ironically to Curiak, in the 2004 Great Divide race. Near the end, Basinger's record-breaking ride was slowed unexpectedly by challenging terrain in the form of large pieces of ice hidden beneath new snow that caused him many falls.
"Peter's ride was absolutely amazing. The route was actually 33 miles longer than the usual 350 miles. He took off on unfamiliar territory all by himself across the Alaska Range," said organizer and seven-time finisher Bill Merchant, in awe. "It was seriously remote." Merchant marveled at what must have gone through Basinger's mind at the start of such an undertaking, unsupported and alone, in extreme conditions.
The Iditarod Trail Invitational is a simultaneous bike, ski, and foot race. The longer option runs 1,100 miles from Knik Lake to McGrath, Alaska. As of Tuesday afternoon, three cyclists and one walker are still racing in the 1,100 mile version, which will finish in Nome after they have endured 25 to 30 days of unsupported racing. "I'm not expecting any records to be broken this year on that one," said Merchant.
Racers receive limited support and may take any route they choose so long as they pass through all required checkpoints. They must carry their own survival gear and may receive no outside assistance. They often battle temperatures of 30 to 50 degrees below zero.
Ultra-distance mountain-biking pioneer John Stamsted was a former successful record holder at the Iditarod; however, he competed in an era of a mandatory overnight stop, so his record performance (three days, eight hours, and 15 minutes in 1998) cannot be directly compared.
Top five for the 350 mile edition:
1 Peter Basinger - 3 days, 5 hours, 40 min
2 Jeff Oatley - 4 days, 1 hour, 20 min
2 Jay Petervary - 4 days, 1 hour, 20 min
2 Rocky Reifenstuhl - 4 days, 1 hour, 20 min
5 Joseph Dundee- 4 days, 9 hours, 59 min