It has been a few days since I posted an update on the Iditarod, and a lot has happened in that time. The top mushers are now into the Anvik checkpoint, which falls at the 624 mile mark, leaving just 507 miles to go until the finish line in Nome. As of this writing, Sebastian Schnuelle is the leader of the race, and the only musher out of Anvik, but a host of sled drivers are chasing him, including some rather big names. Meanwhile, a former champ was forced to withdraw following an injury.
As noted above, Schnuelle is currently running in first place, with Hugh Neff in second. John Baker holds down the third spot, with Lance Mackey still lurking in fourth, and Ray Redington, Jr. rounding out the top five. Other names of note include four-time champ Martin Buser, who was in the lead for much of the early going, falling back to sixth place through Anvik, and crowd favorite DeeDee Jonrowe is racing well in 10th place having left the Shageluk checkpoint.
Hugh Neff was actually the first person to reach the Yukon, arriving in Anvik ahead of the pack. Fans of the race will know that that honor awards him a gourmet meal cooked by the head chef from the Millenium Hotel in Anchorage. That meal is cooked over a campstove and is a seven course affair where they receive a 7 course meal prepared over a campstove. It is quite a prize for the person who earns it, and the "8th course" isn't bad either. That consists of $3500 in cash!
Many of the teams will now take a mandatory eight hour rest break in Anvik before heading out on the trail once again to start the final push for Nome. It appears that Schnuelle has made the calculated risk of skipping that break for now, in an effort to put some distance and time between himself and his competitors. We'll see if that pays off down the line.
There has been another scratch from the race as well, this time taking a big name out of the race. Mitch Seavey was forced to withdraw when he cut his hand while opening a bale of straw for his dogs at the Ophir checkpoint. Apparently the cut was quite deep and severe, which prompted him not only to leave the race, but also get airlifted to a hospital for stitches.
The race is really starting to heat up now, and we'll start to see the front runners using different tactics to try to jockey for position. With 500+ miles yet to go, it is still anyone's race, but the race tacticians will likely start to take over in the next few days.
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