Travis Temple. (Photo by Travis Temple)

No peninsula riders will start Iron Dog

Soldotna’s Temple wants to make area a player in race again

Saturday, the Iron Dog Pro Class will begin with 21 two-person teams. None of those teams will include a rider from the Kenai Peninsula.

Travis Temple, a 32-year-old born and raised in Soldotna, was originally scheduled to race the 2,600 miles starting in Big Lake, stopping at the halfway point in Nome, then returning to Big Lake.

In late December, Temple was training with his partner, 28-year-old Jimmy Gattenby of Soldotna, when Gattenby crashed and broke his back in two places, forcing him to withdraw from the race.

Some of the most legendary names in Iron Dog history come from the central peninsula.

Soldotna’s Scott Davis won the race seven times, including in 1985, the year after the race started. Dusty VanMeter has five titles racing out of Kasilof, while Mark Carr brought Soldotna an additional four titles.

In 2017, Cory Davis, the son of Scott, added to the central peninsula’s legacy by winning his own title.

Temple said his goal is to make the peninsula a player in the Iron Dog again.

“We’ve always had it,” he said. “Scott Davis, Mark Carr, Cory, VanMeter. We’ve always had great riders down here. But especially after Cory got out, it’s grown superstagnant.”

Temple has long ties with the Davis family. His mother, Lisa Humecky, graduated high school with Scott. Temple grew up racing motocross with Cory.

Temple said he has talked with Scott about the lack of peninsula riders in the Iron Dog.

“We came to the conclusion we don’t have anybody pushing for it,” Temple said. “This community has hooked me up more than you can imagine. I want to give back to the young guys and get the spark going again.”

Temple’s first try in the Iron Dog came last year. He had passed the halfway point and was approaching Unalakleet with his partner when Temple hit a pressure ridge crossing Norton Sound and crashed. Temple said a ground storm reduced visibility to nothing and he crashed going 80 mph.

Temple actually rode 80 miles after the crash, but when his partner’s sled had problems, the two went to flip it over and Temple went to the ground in severe pain. The duo dropped out and Temple found out he had separated his sternum.

Another crash ended Temple’s Iron Dog dream this year. In late December, Temple and Gattenby were riding in the Caribou Hills when Gattenby crashed.

Temple said Gattenby is getting better, but won’t be ready to race the Iron Dog. Temple said he thought about getting another partner, but said that it was a little late in the game financially to make that happen.

Temple said he is still slated to be the backup rider for three teams in the event any of their members fail COVID-19 tests, but most likely the peninsula will have to wait for next year to see another rider finish the Iron Dog.

Temple said Gattenby is the type of rider who can make the peninsula a player in the Iron Dog again. Knowing Gattenby’s talent, Temple put Gattenby on one of Temple’s sleds last year at the Valdez Mayor’s Cup in mid-March 2020.

Racing in semi pro in the cross-country race, Gattenby got third despite only having 150 miles of training on the sled. Temple said Gattenby’s competitors had over 1,000 miles training.

Temple said he will be taking peninsula riders Bradley Kishbaugh, Cole Crandall and Chad Moore to the Mayor’s Cup this year to give them a taste of racing cross-country on a snowmachine.

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