Four-time champion Martin Buser spent the past two years pushing the pace at the beginning of the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race. While the veteran led the racers out of Nenana Monday afternoon, hours earlier, before he left Fairbanks, Buser insisted he didn't plan to stay in that position long.
"I'm not going to jump out front," the Big Lake musher said early Monday morning while lounging on the back of his race sled as he prepared for the start. "I want to be first at the end, not the first at Tanana."
Buser said this year he'll be running the "A" team while his son, Rohn, a two-time Kuskokwim 300 champion, will have his own team of young dogs that won't be as competitive as the elder Buser's more-experienced unit.
Buser said the decision to run hundreds of miles nonstop from the Willow start to the checkpoints of Rohn and Nikolai in previous years were "based on physiological findings" he had been testing with his dogs. The runs proved the dogs can do it, but whether you can win with such a strategy remains to be seen. Last year, Buser placed sixth with such a technique, but he was a disappointing 17th in 2013.
"Now there's just too many good teams, too many good drivers," Buser said. "It's an awfully high order to win from wire to wire."
Buser wouldn't discuss specifics on this year's plan, but insisted his new strategy gave him a better chance of winning.