Every Iron Dog race has its big names, but throughout the course of the race's 27-year history, the names of winners are ever-changing.

"Anybody could win this race," defending champion Chris Olds said.

The statistics back up his claim. Since 1990, 12 different riders have tasted victory, and in the past five years there have been five different champion teams. The 2011 event features three competitors with at least three titles: Seven-time winner Scott Davis, Todd Palin with four titles, and three-time champion Dusty Van Meter, who is riding with Marc McKenna, a 2-time winner.

The parity at the top is due to unpredictable trail conditions. Tyler Huntington, who won last year alongside Olds, explains how important it is to stay calm and focused.

"You have to minimize your mistakes, you have to correct any problems that you do have and you have to be able to do it real quick so you can stay up towards the front," he said.

When any number of disasters can hit with no warning, a top dog will always be prepared to execute efficiently, but also knows that luck is a major factor in the equation.

"Hopefully other people will have problems or more problems than you. You're always going to have some problem," said Nick Olstad, who won the 2009 race with teammate Todd Minnick.