A Seavey is leading the Iditarod, and for once there's no confusion as to which musher we're talking about.
With his son Dallas skipping the race, it was up to defending winner Mitch to shoulder the family tradition today. Seavey snatched the Iditarod lead at 12:49 p.m. as the first racer out of Nikolai and has kept the chase pack at bay en route to McGrath (Mile 311.)
Joar Leifseth Ulsom of Norway left the checkpoint 17 minutes after Seavey, with Ryan Redington departing in third seven minutes later.
Race leaders are expected tonight in Takotna, where many mushers like to take their 24-hour mandatory layover. Others will push on toward Iditarod, the race name-sake checkpoint that mushers have not visited since 2013, the last time the race traveled on the southern route.
'Most Improved Musher' Ryan Redington leads frontrunners into Nikolai
Ryan Redington, the 35-year-old grandson of Iditarod co-founder Joe Redington, led Iditarod 2018 into the riverside checkpoint of Nikolai at 8:06 a.m. today.
Nicolas Petit of Girdwood and defending champ Mitch Seavey soon followed. Petit arrived at 8:25 a.m. and Seavey followed two minutes later.
Nikolai is mile 263. At this early stage of the race, starting order still plays a role on the leaderboard. Mushers departed Willow Sunday in two-minute intervals, so those with lower bib numbers like Ryan Redington (No. 7) received a slight head start. Seavey is bib No. 13 and Petit is bib No. 46, meaning that when adjusting for time, he could be considered the true race "leader."
That advantage is erased when racers take their 24-hour layover and resting times are adjusted to even the playing field.
Closing in on Nikolai
The brothers Redington are among the crowd of Iditarod contenders closing in on Nikolai this morning.
Ryan Redington, the grandson of race co-founder Joe, led Iditarod 2018 out of Rohn and stayed ahead of the chase pack overnight. Mushers are charging for the riverside village checkpoint at mile 263, where many teams will park for several hours while mushers eat at the school cafeteria.
Redington finished 14th last year, winning the Most Improved Musher award.
Defending champ Mitch Seavey and Ryan's older brother, Ray, departed Rohn within half an hour of Ryan. Rounding out the top five were Norway's Joar Leifseth Ulsom, who at 31 has never finished out of the top 10, and perennial contender Jessie Royer.
The Iditarod GPS tracker showed that lineup shaking up a bit as the teams approach Nikolai, with Girdwood musher Nic Petit and one of last year's frontrunners, Wade Marrs, close behind.
"This year has gotten off to a more traditional start, and with abundant snow and unknown trail conditions ahead, it seems as if everyone wants to stay within their comfort zone and not get too far ahead of themselves," wrote analyst and Iditarod veteran Jake Berkowitz.
Seavey is racing without his 2017 Golden Harness winner. The musher dropped Pilot way back in Skwentna, his son Danny Seavey wrote on the iditaride.com website.
Also missing: Mitch's son Dallas. The younger Seavey, who won the race in 2012 and 2014, 2015 and 2016, skipped this year's Iditarod in protest of how race officials handled drug-testing results involving four dogs on his 2017 team.