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Frame-by-Frame: I-500 Agony in Pictures


(2/12/2014)

The I-500 is a race of beauty and grace.

A racer hurling full-tilt down a windswept ditch – his/her sled dancing off the tips of drifts as a white plume of snow dust stretches behind – is pure beauty for any fan of cross-country.

But like any form of racing, cross-country can deliver heartbreak and cruel witness; where a racer is unceremoniously ripped from the sublime and tossed like a rag-doll into a cartwheeling mess of plastic and pain.

I captured three sequences of such cruelty on the first day of this year’s I-500, less than one mile from start line and at just the fourth ditch approach of the race.

I offer these three sequences not as ridicule to the three drivers, but rather a testament to the nerves, vulnerability and gamble involved in cross-country racing. I know exactly what it feels like to be “this” racer, as I too offered wide-eyed onlookers a spectacular cartwheel of sled and body just one mile from this very spot during the first day of the 2008 edition.

The first sequence involved Spencer Kadlec, a top pro who regularly runs in or near the top-10. Kadlec survived this crash and went on to finish the day in 5th place overall, 3:30 behind Brian Dick. A stuck clutch on day two would end Kadlec's I-500.

 

2014 USXC I-500 cross-country Spencer Kadlec Polaris crash. Photo by ArcticInsider.com

2014 USXC I-500 cross-country Spencer Kadlec Polaris crash. Photo by ArcticInsider.com

2014 USXC I-500 cross-country Spencer Kadlec Polaris crash. Photo by ArcticInsider.com

2014 USXC I-500 cross-country Spencer Kadlec Polaris crash. Photo by ArcticInsider.com

2014 USXC I-500 cross-country Spencer Kadlec Polaris crash. Photo by ArcticInsider.com

2014 USXC I-500 cross-country Spencer Kadlec Polaris crash. Photo by ArcticInsider.com

2014 USXC I-500 cross-country Spencer Kadlec Polaris crash. Photo by ArcticInsider.com

2014 USXC I-500 cross-country Spencer Kadlec Polaris crash. Photo by ArcticInsider.com

 

This next sequence involves Yamaha Pro racer Matt Piche, who has had his fair share of get-offs this season.

Like Kadlec, Piche would settle into a nicer ryhthm after this crash and finish the day in eighth, six minutes behind race leader Brian Dick.

I didn't hear what ended Piche's race on the second day, so if anyone knows please post it in the comments.

Piche's was the least spectacular of the three crashed I photographed, which is suppose is some small consolation.

2014 USXC I-500 cross-country Matt Piche Yamaha crash. Photo by ArcticInsider.com

2014 USXC I-500 cross-country Matt Piche Yamaha crash. Photo by ArcticInsider.com

2014 USXC I-500 cross-country Matt Piche Yamaha crash. Photo by ArcticInsider.com

2014 USXC I-500 cross-country Matt Piche Yamaha crash. Photo by ArcticInsider.com

2014 USXC I-500 cross-country Matt Piche Yamaha crash. Photo by ArcticInsider.com

2014 USXC I-500 cross-country Matt Piche Yamaha crash. Photo by ArcticInsider.com

2014 USXC I-500 cross-country Matt Piche Yamaha crash. Photo by ArcticInsider.com

2014 USXC I-500 cross-country Matt Piche Yamaha crash. Photo by ArcticInsider.com

2014 USXC I-500 cross-country Matt Piche Yamaha crash. Photo by ArcticInsider.com

2014 USXC I-500 cross-country Matt Piche Yamaha crash. Photo by ArcticInsider.com

 

The third, final and most damaging crash belonged to Semi Pro Gunnar Arlaud.

Unfortunately for Arlaud, his friends were parked at this very spot and saw the whole episode (I know that if I crashed in front of my friends, I would NEVER be allowed to forget it). On the flip side, those same friends helped him duct tape his hood back onto the sled.

Arlaud dodged one bullet when, a moment after his crash, he was almost clipped by Arctic Cat's Garret Johnson.

The worse thing that happened to Arlaud though wasn't the crash: it was the slowness with which he arose and tried to move his sled.

Unfortunately, it was too slow: About one minute after the crash, his sled still sitting in the middle of the ditch (he was picking up the GoPro camera that jettisoned off his helmet and surveying the sled), Jay Ilstrup unwittingly plowed into Arlaud's sled, peeling off the hood in the process.

I guess he could only dodge one bullet?

At this point his friends waved their arms to warn oncoming racers, then helped him move and fix his sled.

Arlaud eventually got going and finished the day. But he didn't finish the race, as he succumbed to something else on day two.

UPDATE: CLICK HERE to see the Facebook video of Gunnar's GoPro.

 

2014 USXC I-500 cross-country snowmobile ditch crash. Photo by ArcticInsider.com

2014 USXC I-500 cross-country snowmobile ditch crash. Photo by ArcticInsider.com

2014 USXC I-500 cross-country snowmobile ditch crash. Photo by ArcticInsider.com

2014 USXC I-500 cross-country snowmobile ditch crash. Photo by ArcticInsider.com

2014 USXC I-500 cross-country snowmobile ditch crash. Photo by ArcticInsider.com

2014 USXC I-500 cross-country snowmobile ditch crash. Photo by ArcticInsider.com

2014 USXC I-500 cross-country snowmobile ditch crash. Photo by ArcticInsider.com

2014 USXC I-500 cross-country snowmobile ditch crash. Photo by ArcticInsider.com

2014 USXC I-500 cross-country snowmobile ditch crash. Photo by ArcticInsider.com

2014 USXC I-500 cross-country snowmobile ditch crash. Photo by ArcticInsider.com

2014 USXC I-500 cross-country snowmobile ditch crash. Photo by ArcticInsider.com



Comments (6):

David says:
2/12/2014 3:16:00 PM

Great action shots John!
Mike F says:
2/12/2014 3:27:00 PM

Piche went out with a broken steering column after a hard crash. There are a couple of crazy crash videos on utube from day three. Search "2014 USXC I500 Day 3 Crashes". Thankfully nobody was seriously hurt!
jimu@sledracer.com says:
2/12/2014 3:54:00 PM

Sandberg started right behind me that fateful day in 2008 (-28F that morning). I waited for him to pass me but he never showed up until after the gas stop (only one stop on the first day of 2008). He passed me (and my wicked case of arm pump from wearing the wrong gloves), then I passed him back after he blew a belt in Goodridge. At the end of the day I pulled in by his sled and noticed the no windshield/bent steering post situation he had going on. Minutes later he had like 10 factory mechanics rebuilding his sled (I kid! only one). Of course, he ended up winning the class (Sport 85). They don't call him "Sandbagger" for nothing.
Dulpher says:
2/14/2014 3:31:00 PM

The most amazing photos always happen miliseconds before a crash. If you didnt know better, some of those look like they tried to do a kickass whip like Cory Davis.
Sofa says:
3/22/2014 11:34:00 PM

Actually, I was just thinking that this might have been my fatvrioe series ever on the blog. I do love the pictures and videos, but often they only give us a glimpse of what is going on. The length of this one really gave me some insight into what Aliy is thinking, which I don't usually get from the blog. Obviously it is up to her how much she wants to share, but I really enjoyed hearing her reminisce about past races, share her thoughts on various topics, etc. It gave me a lot of insights into the choices she and Allen have made (both in and out of races) and why they run the kennel the way they do. It's one thing to say "We are a dog-centered kennel" and another to really share the thoughts and philosophy behind that statement, for example. Dog mushing is such a mental sport, that I can't imagine I am the only fan who finds those aspects particularly intriguing, and was pleased to have some space devoted to them. It felt a bit like sections of a well-written memoir, which I always enjoy reading. I would add that in listening to interviews with many mushers over the past few years, I have always found Aliy to be unusually articulate, and that is actually one reason why I check in on her site as often as I do. It isn't 'too much talking' when you have interesting things to say and are able to express yourself well.As far as the time it takes to listen to these clips, the great thing about audio-only clips is that I can be working on other things while I am listening, so I am actually more likely to hit play right away.
Zizi says:
3/23/2014 6:50:00 PM

Aliy,As you can see, we love "hearing" your thoughts. The iniervtew was great because of the questions and your insightful answers.One entry you made on Oct 16, 2008 was another way we "heard" what you were thinking as a musher. That was also excellent.Bottom line, your website offers many different things---narrative, pictures, video, audio---on many different topics. It is very clear that you are dog people, that you love your dogs and what you do, and that you enjoy sharing your world. Thank you for all that you (and Macgellan, as well as the earlier contributors to your website) have done to share the world of competitive mushing in Alaska. http://yiegji.com [url=http://vvwdsewfla.com]vvwdsewfla[/url] [link=http://xbpzlbxapf.com]xbpzlbxapf[/link]

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