ANCHORAGE - A Seattle cyclist has won his fourth straight Iditasport Extreme, a 320-mile race on the Iditarod Trail from Knik to McGrath. Competitors include mountain bikers, skiers, skijorers and runners.
John Stamstad pulled into McGrath 15 minutes after midnight Thursday. That was four days, nine hours and 27 minutes after leaving the start line at Knik on Saturday. He finished hours ahead of his nearest competition.
But it wasn't easy.
``There's no easy way from Knik to McGrath on a mountain bike,'' he said by telephone from McGrath on Thursday afternoon. ``You're always going to run into some sort of obstacle.''
To get to the top of Rainy Pass, Stamstad said, he pushed his bike through unrideable snow for 60- or 70 miles from the Finger Lake checkpoint on the south side of the Alaska Range.
``The Iditarod Trail is a crazy place,'' he told the Anchorage Daily News.
It was even crazier than usual this year. What everyone expected to be a hard-packed and fast trail to McGrath disappeared under a foot or more of snow just before the race began.
Mountain bikers spent more time pushing than riding for the first half of the race. Many of them were caught and were passed by runners who normally lag well behind the bikers.
One frustrated mountain biker flagged down a passing rescue helicopter and quit the race for an easy ride back to Anchorage. Another abandoned his gear on the trail, trudged into the Rainy Pass Lodge and called an air taxi to take him home.
But most of them followed Stamstad's lead and just kept trudging on. Biker Jon Kirschke of Yuma, Ariz., arrived in McGrath at 6:02 a.m. to claim second place. Pat Norwil from Mazama, Wash., arrived at 10:05 a.m. to take third.