Rohn Buser, the 23-year-old Big Lake musher who won the most-improved award in last year's race, has withdrawn from the Iditarod.
Buser is the son of four-time champion Martin Buser. The pair crossed the finish line together in 2012, with Rohn awarded 18th place and Martin finishing 19th.
Martin Buser said he and Rohn took turns choosing the best dogs from their kennel in the fall and had planned on running two separate but competitive squads in the Iditarod. Rohn seemed disappointed when he failed to repeat this year as Kuskowkim 300 champion, Martin said, and had reservations about returning to the Iditarod.
"We were debating back and forth before the food drops. He had mentioned that it might be too much for him and he didn't want to have two so-so teams if we could have one super team," Martin Buser said.
Martin said he's now excited about the prospect of choosing among the Buser kennel best. In past Iditarods, he sometimes chose dogs that were sentimental favorites but not the best fit for the team, he said.
"I have a tendency to hold on to the oldies-but-goodies," Martin Buser said.
This year he plans to be more pragmatic. With Rohn's team at his disposal, he has a deep bench to choose from and may include only the most athletic Iditarod veterans. Young dogs that already know the trail, Martin said.
"Obviously it puts all the onus, all the stress on me now. I feel really good about them," he said.
Rohn Buser placed 37 in the 2008 Iditarod as a rookie. Iditarod officials announced on Wednesday he would not be competing in the race. He could not immediately be reached for comment.
Buser is the fifth musher to withdraw from the 2013 race, including five-time winner Rick Swenson of Two Rivers.
By KYLE HOPKINS