Richie Diehl Claims First Kusko Victory in a COVID-19 Modified 267-Mile Race
Richie Diehl of Aniak has won his first Kuskokwim 300 sled dog race, beating his friend and reigning champion, Pete Kaiser of Bethel by about 45 minutes.
Diehl pulled into Bethel yesterday morning at 6:38am with all but one of the dogs he started with. After completing an almost 150-mile loop twice and holding the lead for the majority of the race, Diehl was raving about his team.
“There were a lot of things that came together. I think the Bogus Creek 150 opened my eyes to what this team is capable of doing and I’ve kind of been a little hesitant in the past of going harder from the start. After doing the Bogus I knew this was a team that could potentially win, so I went out racing from the get-go and from start to here, they went hard and they did awesome.”– Richie Diehl
That was Diehl speaking with KYUK Radio at the finish line in Bethel. The local reporter asked this year’s K300 winner how he felt about beating Pete Kaiser, who already has five first place finishes in this 300-mile race. Diehl says he and Kaiser are still very close.
“He’s dominating the Kusko right now and we want to race the best; he’s the best. And he’s my best friend but to beat him…It makes me feel better that I am racing the best right now, and he was in it. He even told me it was one of his best Kuskos so…”– Richie Diehl
Diehl is the first musher to win both the K300 and the local Bogus Creek 150 race in the same year. He also set the record for the fastest win in Kusko history with a time of 36 hours and eight minutes, although the trail was only 267 miles compared to the usual 300.
12 mushers have reached the finish in this year’s COVID-19 modified race so far while three have scratched. That leaves one musher still out on the trail; Reese Madden of Nome. K300 race manager Paul Basille told KNOM yesterday that the plan is to let Madden finish even if it takes all day.
“There’s a history in our race of racers being permitted to go another couple days, as long as they’re clear that their support on the trail is going to be diminished. We’re a race that relies enormously on volunteers; most of those volunteers have work tomorrow so we can’t provide the same level of support out on the trail come Monday or Tuesday and they [the mushers] understand that.”– Paul Basille
As of 8am, according to the unofficial GPS tracker, Madden had already finished his mandatory four-hour layover at Tuluksak 4. He is back on the trail heading towards the finish in Bethel currently.
All mushers who finished this race take home a sizable portion of the $143,500 race purse. Over $25,000 of that money goes to Diehl for his first ever K300 victory.
Image at top: Richie Diehl of Aniak during the ceremonial start of the 2019 Iditarod in Anchorage. Photo from KNOM file, 2019.