Jacob Hora, 16, of Victor, will depart the Tetons this week to take on a 350-mile fat bike race in Alaska.
Hora, a competitive cyclist on both snow and dirt, has been doing increasingly ambitious rides through the years. As a middle schooler he rode his bike to school every single day for two years; after racing for several seasons as a member of the Teton Valley Composite team, he started exploring longer events including Pierre's Hole, and under the tutelage of ultra-endurance professional Jay Petervary, Hora has expanded his goals and finished several bikepacking events and races including last year’s Fitz-Barn and the 1,000-mile Utah Mixed Epic.
While the Iditarod Trail Invitational won’t be anywhere near the longest race Hora has competed in, it brings its own unique challenges. The race is the world’s longest-running winter ultra marathon, and the 350-mile route generally follows the historic Iditarod Trail from Knik Lake to McGrath in the Alaska Interior. This year the route has been changed to an out-and-back as a Covid precaution, but the distance remains the same.
Hora said he started thinking about one day doing the Iditarod around a year ago. “I never thought I would do it when I was 16 though,” he said. “I joked about it with Jay on one of our rides and he actually made it happen! He reached out to the race director and got me a spot, I was so grateful.”
To prepare for the possibility of temperature swings between 40 and -40 degrees, precipitation, and long days of travel through snow on a loaded bike, Hora recently participated in Petervary’s three-day Fat Pursuit Camp, then raced the informal 200K Fat Pursuit in Island Park on Jan. 8, finishing the route in less than 20 hours.
“Jay and I are doing the race as a pair so he has taught me a lot in preparation for it,” Hora said. “It takes a completely different skill set than summer riding, so I am excited to try it. I don’t really have any fears but I think encountering any large sections of overflow would be interesting.” (Depending on the weather, there’s a possibility on the route of have to cross moving water instead of traveling over a frozen river.)
He said he’s most excited to see the Northern Lights at night, and is looking forward to riding in the cold.
“I love the cold,” Hora said. “It adds a different element to riding.”
Watch Hora's race progress starting Sunday at trackleaders.com/iti21.