When Will They Arrive? Look for Iditarod’s Top 3 Between Midnight and Sunrise Wednesday

Detail of the Iditarod finish line in Nome, called the Burled Arch. Text reads “End of Iditarod,” etched in wood.

If there’s one question most on the minds of Nome residents this Tuesday afternoon, it’s likely this: “when will they get here?”

Making predictions in a race as historically unpredictable as the Iditarod is a thorny undertaking, at best. But with Iditarod’s top 3 leaders now into the White Mountain checkpoint, the variables in the race left to be run are sufficiently low to make a reasonable guess for arrivals.

Barring any unexpected weather delays or other obstacles or upsets, Joar Leifseth Ulsom will likely cross the Burled Arch to win Iditarod 46 early Wednesday morning. Look for Ulsom to arrive between 12midnight and 3am, perhaps right around 1:30am.

Ulsom arrived into White Mountain at 7:52am Tuesday, immediately beginning the 8-hour layover required of all mushers. He’ll be eligible to depart at 3:52pm. Historically, lead mushers tend to waste no time in leaving White Mountain to hit the final, 77-mile trail to Nome.

The White Mountain-Safety-Nome run, without unexpected obstacles, typically takes mushers 9-10 hours, 8 if they’re running quickly, which would put Ulsom into Nome in the 12-2am timeframe (3am if the trail is a bit slower).

Joar Ulsom, wearing a blue hat and black parka, attends to his sled dogs in Unalakleet on Sunday.

Joar Ulsom at the Unalakleet checkpoint on Sunday. Photo: Zachariah Hughes, Alaska Public Media.

Behind Ulsom will likely be Nicolas Petit, who arrived in White Mountain exactly 3 hours 30 minutes behind Ulsom (at 11:22am). Petit will be eligible to leave at 7:22pm. We’ll likely see Petit take 2nd place in Nome in the 3:30-5:30am timeframe.

After that will likely be Mitch Seavey. Seavey arrived into White Mountain at 1:24pm Tuesday. He’ll likely depart WMO for Nome at or shortly after 9:24pm and hit Front Street, taking third place, around 6:30am or later.

Ulsom, Petit, and Seavey all have sufficient cushions between themselves and their next-closest competitors. It’ll take an exceptional surprise to upset their likely finishes of first, second, and third early Wednesday morning. But exceptional surprises — like, say, Petit losing the trail on Monday morning — are the stuff of which Iditarods are made.

Stay tuned.

Image at top: file photo: detail of the Iditarod finish line in Nome, called the Burled Arch. Photo: David Dodman, KNOM.