Expect finish by midday Tuesday

Mike Campbell

Expect the winner of the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race to pass beneath the burled arch on Nome's Front Street at lunchtime Tuesday.

Race leader Lance Mackey left Koyuk, about 170 miles from the finish line, just before 6 a.m. Monday. That put him about 3 1/2 hours behind the race record pace of Big Lake's Martin Buser, set in 2002.

Buser reached the finish line at 8:46 a.m.

So if Mackey can maintain a Buser-like pace over the final miles, he should reach the finish line before 1 p.m. Tuesday. While cold weather is expected over the next 36 hours, no nasty storm systems are approaching, according to the National Weather Service.

Typically, a variety of race watchers, experts and former mushers have their own opinions.

• Musher Jon Little, who's finished as high as fourth in his five Iditarods, thinks lunchtime isn't a bad bet. "The way things are progressing, the race could end by as early as Tuesday morning but more likely by the afternoon," Little wrote in his race blog Check Point for Dr. Tim's Pet Food Co. "I guessed 1 p.m. I believe that would make it a nine-day race, or a shade under that, which is very, very close to Martin Buser's race record of 8 days, 22 hours, 46 minutes and 2 seconds. But who's counting?"

• Libby Riddles, the first woman to win, is predicting 4 p.m. -- while worrying about other predictions as early as 10 a.m. that she's heard. "I just hope my noon flight tomorrow is on time," she added.

• Joshua Rogers, who's writing a race blog at www.iditablog.com says, "I'm thinking Tuesday mid- to late afternoon."

• Chas St. George, head of publicity for the Iditarod, thinks noon to 2 p.m. is likeliest. St. George is in Nome and reports almost no wind there late Monday morning.

So if lunchtime sounds right, order up a fat cheeseburger for Mackey, who will set a race record with a fourth consecutive victory if he prevails.