Bitter winds delay winner's welcome in Nome

March 17, 2009 

Brutal winds that have slowed the 37th Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race to a crawl and forced some mushers to quit have pushed back the estimated finish time.

Don't expect the winner on Front Street in Nome before noon Wednesday.

Two-time defending champion Lance Mackey pulled out of Elim, about 120 miles from the finish line, at 10:57 a.m. this morning. Next up is a 30-mile trek to Golovin and a shorter 20-mile run to White Mountain.

There, like all racers, Mackey must take an eight-hour rest before making the final 80-mile push to Nome.

If Mackey arrives in White Mountain by 5 this afternoon, he can't leave until 1 a.m. Wednesday. Then, if he averages a little more than 6 mph over the final stretch, it will take 12 hours -- putting the Fairbanks musher in Nome about 1 p.m. Wednesday.

As has already been amply demonstrated, weather can slow any musher -- and there are places along that final stretch such as the notorious Solomon Blowhole that tend to funnel wind and cause mushers grief.

Sebastian Schnuelle and John Baker, running second and third out of Koyuk, left that checkpoint just before 6 a.m. today for the 48-mile run to Elim.

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