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Sports

ITI Athletes Could Have Record Breaking Year

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Josh Spice
/
friend of KUAC

Fairbanks, AK - It could be a record setting year for the Iditarod Trail Invitational.  The race began Sunday afternoon.  

Bikers are burning up the 350 mile trail between Knik and McGrath.  Kathi Merchant is the race co-organizer. “It’s pretty amazing," she says, but what's really spefcial is there are rookie sin the lead hanging with Jeff Oatley, but at the same time they're pushing him to his best.” Fairbanks cyclist Jeff Oatley won the race in 2009 and placed within the top six five other times.  He’s leading a group of hungry rookies including Anchorage biker Tim Bernston who won last year’s White Mountains 100 north of Fairbanks.  There’s also Alaskan John Lackey who claimed first in last year’s Susitna 100. Fairbanks Rookie Kevin Breitenbach is rounding out the pack.  He won Minnesota’s Arrowhead 135 in 2012 to gain his invitation to the race.  “We have always said a rookie can't win this race because there's so many factors and veriables out there that can be thrown at you any time and it's such a game changer, but it looks like it's possible this year,” says Merchant.

There’s also a rookie female cyclists keeping up with the front of the pack. "2011 is when Louise Coban set the new women's record by bike," says Merchant. "And currently Eszter Horanyi from Colorado is on pace to break Coban’s record.” There are also a handful of runners making their way for McGrath at top speed. “We're just trying to figure out how close David Johnston, an Alaskan from Willow is to Steve Reifenstuhl's record.  He set the record in 2005," Merchant explains. 

The course record for cyclists was set in 2007 by Anchorage biker Pete Basinger in 3 days and 5 hours.  Merchant says the first racers among the 36 runners and bikers competing could finish in McGrath as early as tomorrow (Wednesday) night.  12 will continue on.  They’ll attempt to complete a 1000 mile trek to Nome.