Nicolas Petit, the 36-year-old Girdwood musher who dominated middle-distance sled dog races this year, has arrived at the Iditarod checkpoint in what could be considered the Iditarod lead.
Petit is the first musher who has completed his mandatory 24-hour rest to reach Iditarod, checking in at 2:28 p.m. with 14 dogs. Joar Leifseth Ulsom was first to arrive at the checkpoint, which is actually Mile 432 of the 1,000-mile race, is still ticking away the hours on his own daylong layover.
Petit can move along anytime, while Leifseth Ulsom must wait until later tonight.
Petit is chased by defending champ Mitch Seavey, who has also finished his 24 and trailed Petit into Iditarod by 49 minutes. Seavey led earlier in the race but said in Takotna (Mile 329) that he might relinquish the lead in favor of resting his dogs for the Bering Sea coast.
"When you get to the coast, if you're within striking range, he who has the best team wins," 58-year-old Seavey told ADN in Takotna.
If Seavey is comfortable giving up first place for long stretches of the trail, Petit is equally at home taking it. In 2017, he won $3,500 as the first musher to the Yukon on a version of the race's northern route. This year, with plenty of snow, the Iditarod returned to the southern route for the first time since 2013, when Seavey won the event.
The Yukon River award, which includes a Champagne flute toast and five-course dinner, awaits in Anvik (Mile 512).