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RACE UPDATES: Petit leads the Iditarod up the Yukon River

  • Author: Kyle Hopkins
  • Updated: March 9, 2018
  • Published March 9, 2018

5:20 P.M.

Nic Petit is on the run, in the lead of Iditarod 2018 after leaving Grayling at 4:48 p.m.

Defending champ Mitch Seavey and Joar Leifseth Ulsom remained at the mile 530 checkpoint.

4:30 P.M.

Nic Petit checked into Grayling (mile 530) at 4:11 p.m., making him the Iditarod leader given that he is the only musher among the top three to have completed his mandatory 8-hour layover on the Yukon River.

It was not immediately clear how long Petit planned to stay. After a stellar middle-distance racing season, Petit claimed the First to the Yukon Award earlier today and is challenging for a first Iditarod victory.

Before the race, he said his goal is to " win the Iditarod with the best-looking group of dogs there has ever been."

Seavey and Ulsom first to Grayling … but here comes a rested Nic Petit

2:30 P.M.: Race leaders Mitch Seavey and Joar Leifseth Ulsom have arrived 13 minutes apart at the Yukon River checkpoint of Grayling (mile 530).

Seavey checked in at 1:45 p.m. today with 12 dogs in harness, followed by Ulsom with 15. The pair will have to decide whether to take their mandatory eight-hour Yukon River rest now or 122 miles down the trail at Kaltag. The Eagle Island checkpoint lies in between, but race officials have said that it is no longer an option for fulfilling the eight-hour rest requirement due to poor flying weather into the checkpoint. (See below.)

While Seavey and Ulsom are out front, the only racer to have completed his eight-hour Yukon River rest is Nicolas Petit, who is closing in. Petit returned to the trail in third place, leaving Anvik (mile 512) at 1:21 p.m. with 14 rested dogs.

Bad weather for flying rules out Eagle Island as 8-hour layover destination

Iditarod officials say poor weather has forced them to remove the Eagle Island checkpoint (mile 592) as an option for mushers to take their mandatory, eight-hour Yukon River rest.

Race rules require teams to stop for eight hours somewhere on the river. As Daily News analyst and Iditarod veteran Jake Berkowitz writes, the checkpoint plays an important role in many teams' race strategy.

But with bad flying weather in the area, race officials do not know if the checkpoint will be well-stocked enough for mandatory eight-hour layovers, said Iditarod spokeswoman Bri Kelly. Eagle Island will still be available for racers to stop for hospitality and to drop dogs, she said. But mushers cannot take their mandatory 8-hour rest there.

Additional supplies are being sent to Grayling (mile 530) to help racers adjust as necessary, Kelly said.

That means mushers won't have supplies to restock in Eagle Island. Typically, mushers send bags out to checkpoints before the race. The bags contain gear, human food and dog food so teams don't have to haul it all in their sleds.

Without the Eagle Island checkpoint, they'll have to run with enough dog food and straw to get them the 122 miles from Grayling to Kaltag.

"It's a big deal," Big Lake musher Kelly Maixner said. "You're talking about at least 150 pounds you've got to haul."

"It's a lot to ask dogs to haul all their food, but it's doable," said Seward musher Travis Beals.

Willow musher Robert Redington, the youngest of the three Redington brothers in this year's Iditarod, shrugged off the checkpoint elimination. "No problem," he said. "We still get to run our dogs so that's what's important."

Also today, Washington state musher Scott White dropped out of the race. Kelly wrote that White made the decision "in the best interest of his race team" at Takotna (mile 329). White, who had 10 dogs in harness, will drive the team back to McGrath, where he will be transported back to Anchorage.

White has attempted the Iditarod twice before, finishing 54th in 2010.


Mitch Seavey reclaims the lead with Ulsom at his heels

Mitch Seavey packs his sled at the checkpoint of Iditarod on Thursday. (Loren Holmes / ADN)

Mitch Seavey is back in the Iditarod lead, for now, followed closely by Norwegian musher Joar Leifseth Ulsom.

The defending 2017 winner sped through the Yukon River checkpoint of Anvik at 11:04 a.m. He passed a resting Nicolas Petit, who earlier today won the First to the Yukon Award.

Ulsom trailed Seavey, who is down to 12 dogs, by just two minutes out of Anvik. See the full standings here.

Daily News Iditarod analyst and race veteran Jake Berkowitz said Petit's savvy moves, including taking his 24-hour rest early in the race at McGrath, appear to put the Girdwood musher in a strong position for the tough coastal trail ahead. Others in the field should not be counted out, he wrote.

"The chase pack is not giving up and the Top 10 is in a constant shuffle," Berkowitz wrote. "After some big moves we see the dynamic duo of the Kuskokwim Boys rounding out the top five, with Richie Diehl pulling in fourth into Shageluk (Diehl's best Iditarod finish was in 2016 when he finished 12th), with his good friend and 4-time defending Kuskokwim 300 Champion, Pete Kaiser only 5 minutes behind."

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