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In Shageluk, Iditarod Leaders Have the Yukon in Their Sights

An aerial view of the trail from Ophir to Iditarod (checkpoint). Photo: Ben Matheson, KNOM.

The Yukon River is in sight for top Iditarod mushers.

Shortly after midnight, defending champion Joar Leifseth Ulsom was first into Shageluk as wet snow fell. He pulled his team over for a nap and a big meal.

There is a gourmet dinner and prize money 25 miles down the trail in Anvik, but after a hard run through the hilly terrain, Leifseth Ulsom decided to forego the prize he would have received if he pushed ahead.

“If I was to do it, it’d only be for the money; it wouldn’t be the best thing for the dogs.”

Last year’s runner-up, Nic Petit, arrived 36 minutes later wearing a raincoat. He was out within three minutes for the run to Anvik.

“What time did he pull in? Quarter after? [to the dogs] Ready, girls?”

The two have been racing near each other since the Ophir checkpoint and swapped the lead position a few times Thursday as their rest and run schedules intersected. And there will be more shuffling of the leaderboard this weekend. Mushers must take an 8-hour rest at a checkpoint of their choice on the Yukon River or in Shageluk.

As the race enters the fifth day, a warm winter storm is expected to drop a few inches of snow and see temperatures climb into the mid 30s.

Image at top: An aerial view of the trail from Ophir to Iditarod (checkpoint). Photo: Ben Matheson, KNOM.

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