A brief history of Iditabike and Iditasport by Jill Homer


Racing on the Iditarod Trail dates back to 1973, when Joe Redington and others devised a dog-sled race that would travel 1,000 miles across Alaska to Nome in recognition of the brave mushers and dogs who shuttled life-saving serum to the Western Alaska village during a 1925 diphtheria outbreak. Ten years later, Redington and others launched the inaugural Iditaski, the first human-powered race on the Iditarod Trail. In the mid-1980s, a hundred-mile snowshoe race formed. But human-powered Iditarod racing took a turn toward international fame in 1987, when what was then still a relatively new sport — mountain biking — found its way onto the Iditarod Trail. Iditabike was born.

Charlie Kelly wrote a piece for Cyclist Magazine about the inaugural race, “The Brotherhood of Pain.” According to Kelly, Redington also dreamed up the bike race. “In 1986 70-year-old Joe Redington Sr., who dreamed up the lditarod 15 years ago, suggested to the Mountain Bikers of Alaska that they race mountain bikes on the 210-mile ski-race course which follows the lditarod Trail out of Knik for a hundred miles and returns,” Kelly wrote. “The kicker was that they should do it in the winter, leaving the day after the dogsled race. The MBA accepted the challenge.”

“We don’t have any idea what’s going to happen, but we’re willing to give this thing a try,” race organizer Dan Bull told Kelly.

Dave Zink, winner of the 1987 Iditabike in 33 hours and 50 minutes. Photo from Charlie Kelly.

The Mountain Bikers of Alaska figured ten Anchorage-area riders might take on the challenge. But after a cycling publication picked up the story, the race drew twenty men and six women, most of them sponsored riders, from six different states and as far away as Los Angeles. Although small in terms of riders, the extreme nature of Iditabike drew sponsors and international media attention before the word “extreme” was even embedded in mountain bike racing’s nomenclature.

read more on HalfPastDone by Jill Homer:


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