Bernier and Burgeron nearly complete Iron Dog race

Jean-Pierre “JP” Bernier poses for a quick photo on the way into Unalakleet

Jean-Pierre “JP” Bernier poses for a quick photo on the way into Unalakleet —COURTESY PHOTO

The view on the way to the Unalakleet checkpoint.

The view on the way to the Unalakleet checkpoint. COURTESY PHOTO

Jean-Pierre “JP” Bernier celebrates his team’s  achievement with a steak dinner.

Jean-Pierre “JP” Bernier celebrates his team’s achievement with a steak dinner. COURTESY PHOTO

The team spends time with locals at the Koyuk checkpoint.

The team spends time with locals at the Koyuk checkpoint. COURTESY PHOTO

By CAMERON CASHMAN

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript

Published: 02-27-2024 10:06 AM

Modified: 02-28-2024 8:32 AM


Fighting brutal winter weather, Kim Bergeron of Dublin and Jean-Pierre “JP” Bernier of Hancock persevered against technical difficulties and rugged Alaskan terrain to nearly complete the Pro Class of the Iron Dog, which is billed as the longest and toughest snowmobile race in the world, but fell short. 

Bergeron relayed the sad news via the team’s Facebook page Sunday morning:

“I sunk my unit in the south fork of the Kuskokwim River. We are back at Tatina. Nice and dry and fed,” he wrote.

The race began on Feb. 17, and the challenges started shortly thereafter, based on posts from the team’s Facebook page. The first day saw the team repairing an electrical issue with their fuel pump, and an incident on the Kuskokwim River damaged Bergeron’s windshield and GPS tracker.

Similar challenges followed the next two days. Bernier’s auxiliary floodlight failed due to a short in a battery, but the issue was resolved by scavenging a fuse from another part. Additionally, Bergeron was launched off his machine at 50 mph, but both man and machine landed safely, with only minimal damage done to the snowmobile’s gauge cluster. The team made it safely into Unalakleet.

The team reached the halfway point in Nome on Feb. 20, but not before Bernier had his own incident that sent him off his machine at high speed. Bergeron turned to look and had a similar accident, but both men and their snowmobiles were unharmed. 

After resting up in Nome, the team set off again. Bergeron’s favorite section of trail was obscured by ice fog, which slightly hampered their progress, but the team reached the checkpoint in Koyuk without incident. They stopped to visit with the villagers before setting off for the next checkpoint.

Some of the biggest challenges came in between Unalalkleet and Keltag. The team was relieved when they discovered the Unalalkleet River had frozen well enough to cross safely, but the next 20 miles proved to be more difficult. The team was riding on track only about five feet wide, and deep trenches had been created by the other racers, which pushed the machines’ suspensions to their limits. They had to take this section cautiously, which slowed their progress. The team arrived in Keltag with just 90 miles left to go.

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Despite the incident, both men are safe and in high spirits. Further race updates are on their Facebook page at facebook.com/Team15BergeronBernier