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Mitch Seavey returns to the trail after a rest, and the race is on

The rest stop is behind him. Half an Iditarod to go.

Defending champ and three-time winner Mitch Seavey has returned to the trail after his mandatory 24-hour rest and is among a crowd of contenders marching toward the official halfway checkpoint of Iditarod.

Seavey spent his mandatory one-day layover in Takotna, departing at 11:35 p.m. Wednesday. By 2:12 a.m. Thursday, he'd made the 23-mile trip to Ophir (Mile 432). He's dueling with another well-rested top racer, Nicolas Petit, who left Ophir just a minute later.

At the ghost town Iditarod checkpoint, Norwegian musher Joar Leifseth Ulsom awaits, ticking away his own 24-hour break. See the full standings here.

Beyond Iditarod lies the punishing Bering Sea coast.

"I have a little bit of a lead, I think. I might even give that up a little bit and rest somewhere along here," the 58-year-old Seavey told ADN in Takotna. "When you get to the coast, if you're within striking range, he who has the best team wins."

While he's down to 13 of his starting 16 dogs, Seavey said the team is looking "crazy good."

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