Monday, March 12, 2018

Iditarod 2018: Lead Mushers Head to Bering Sea Cost

The 2018 Iditarod hasn't been an easy one thus far. Winter weather has tested the mushers and their teams at practically every turn, with heavy snow and cold temperatures impacting the race. In fact, the snow was so bad at the Eagle Island checkpoint that supply planes couldn't land to deliver food, forcing the race to cancel that checkpoint altogether. But as the frontrunners turn towards Nome, we're now getting an idea of who is in contention coming down the stretch.

At the moment, Nicolas Petit of Girdwood, Alaska holds the lead having checked in and out of the Shaktoolik checkpoint. He has about an hour and a half of a head start on Joar Leifseth Ulsom of Norway and defending champ Mitch Seavey, who are currently in hot pursuit. At this stage of the race, it is beginning to look like one of those three men will most likely arrive in Nome first, although as always with the Iditarod, it ain't over til' its over.

Shaktoolik falls at the 777 mile (1250 km) point, which means there is a little more than 200 miles (321 km) to go until the finish line. Most of the teams have now completed their mandatory 24-hour and 8-hour rest periods, so there shouldn't be a lot of downtime moving forward, although some rest will likely be necessary as they press through to the finish. The strategy of the race will come into play over the next couple of days, with the top musher rising to the top in the homestretch run into Nome.

Meanwhile, four-time Iditarod champ Dallas Seavey, who is sitting out this race in protest over the handling of a doping scandal last fall, is now in Norway competing in the Finnmarkslopet race. The event got underway last Friday, and is now several days into what is the longest dogsled race in Europe at 1200 km (745 miles) in length. So far, Seavey is accounting for himself quite well and is currently running in first place through the first five checkpoints. There is still a long way to go in that event, but it looks like Seavey could potentially win it even as the most experienced rookie Finnmarkslopet has probably ever seen.

We'll keep an eye on both races over the next few days as the mushers head toward the finish line. The Iditarod is shaping up to be one of the best finishes in awhile, so it'll be interesting to see how it all unfolds.

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