The Seavey gang led the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race into Ruby late Wednesday afternoon.
A few hours later, Jeff King led the way out.
Papa Seavey -- 55-year-old two-time Iditarod champ Mitch -- arrived at the checkpoint two minutes in front of fellow two-time winner and defending Iditarod champ Dallas, his son.
Behind them were a string of Iditarod contenders trying to keep up with the blistering pace of a 1,000-mile race moved this year from the rough, wild and snow-short mountains of the Alaska Range onto the smooth ice of Interior rivers. And they weren't far behind. Aaron Burmeister rolled into town at 6:35 p.m., followed by Martin Buser at 7:07 p.m. and Aliy Zirkle at 7:17 p.m.
King, the 59-year-old four-time champion from Denali Park, reached Ruby at 9:32 p.m. and stopped long enough to check in and check out. He left with 16 dogs and the Iditarod lead.
The unusual course from Fairbanks to Nome has provided a generally flat race track, although racers have been rerouted off the rivers on occasion. The fast teams have taken advantage. Buser, a notorious front runner from Big Lake led the race into Tanana late Tuesday, but then chose to take an eight-hour stop there. Mushers are required to take an eight-hour stop and a 24-hour stop before they reach the White Mountain checkpoint, where they take another eight hours before the final 80-mile push to the finish.
King also took his eight-hour layover in Tanana.
The Seaveys and a number of other teams passed King and Buser as they rested. Where the Seaveys will halt for their eight-hour layovers remains to be seen.
Alaska Dispatch Publishing