Friday, March 13, 2009

The Great Chase of the Last Great Race is On

In our last installment we left Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race leader Lance Mackey sitting in a tent in the ghost town of Iditarod, weighing out his shiny gold nuggets. Well, he probably was spending his time feeding, bedding down, and tending to his dogs with maybe a quick nap before he started putting booties back onto canine feet and getting his team ready for the next run. I'rod leaders don't get a whole lot of time for their own relaxation if they have any hope of winning, and all of our front runners still have plenty of hope and opportunity to win this year's race.

Lance gave his team a good six hours of rest before pulling the snowhooks and heading toward the next checkpoint of Shagaluk, where he spent less than 10 minutes before leaving for Anvik and the Yukon River. First into Anvik, Lance was rewarded with a hot gormet meal. Iditarod rules require mushers to take a mandatory 8 hour layover at the checkpoint of their choice on the Yukon River. Lance declared his layover at Anvik, the first opportunity to do so. This gave him plenty of time to rest his dogs, enjoy that fabulous meal and relieve his mind of having to consider a mandatory layover as he mulls over his race strategy.

Meanwhile, Jeff King chose to make his own big move today. The self-proclaimed 'best musher in the world' left Iditarod at 5 am, spent slightly more than an hour in Shagaluk and then beat-feet on down the trail. He arrived in Anvik at 7:38 this evening and stopped long enough to grab some gear from his drop bags and maybe wave to Lance as he left again at 7:45 to claim the lead.

Hard on Jeff's tail, Sebastian Schnuelle and Aaron Burmeister blew through Anvik at 7:47 and 7:48 respectively. Having finished his mandatory 8, Lance took off again in fourth place at 8:12. This has him less than half an hour behind the leader - who must still take an 8 hour mandatory layover somewhere up ahead. He also still has his entire team of 16 dogs.

Hugh Neff, who up until today was hanging in with the front runners, seems to have stalled today. He is currently shown in 9th place and has been stopped in Shagaluk since 1:1o this afternoon.

No one else has yet arrived at Anvik, so it looks like the race to win is between these four teams.

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