Iditarod leaders were leapfrogging each other down the trail on Wednesday, as mushers continue to jockey for position in the early part of the race, and lead changes are common.
Mark Thiessen from The Associated Press reports:
Defending champion Dallas Seavey was the first musher to leave the ghost town of Ophir.
Ophir is 352 miles into the nearly 1,000-mile race. Seavey left there at 3:49 a.m. Wednesday with 12 dogs. He had an 18-minute lead over the second-place musher, Brent Sass, who has 13 dogs remaining on his team.
Sass later passed Seavey while he was resting near the trail, according to the Iditarod tracker.
There’s 73 miles of trail between Ophir and the next checkpoint, Cripple at race mile 425. It’s the longest leg of the race. The trail runs along the Innoko River. There aren’t any particularly tricky sections of this stretch of trail, but it can feel monotonous.
“It’s a safe bet you won’t have the faintest idea where you are for much this leg,” says a description on the Iditarod website. “Even if you sneak a GPS along with you it won’t help much because every hill and creek seems the same as the one before and the one ahead.”
Sass, the race’s 2012 Rookie of the Year, is looking for his first Iditarod title.
Seavey is tied with Rick Swenson with the most Iditarod titles, at five apiece. Swenson won his fifth title in 1991, and the now-71-year-old musher last ran the Iditarod in 2012.
Seavey earlier told The Associated Press that win or lose, he will likely take a break from the race after this year to spend time with his daughter.
By Wednesday afternoon, Sass had a roughly 20 mile lead on Seavey, according to the Iditarod race tracker. Hugh Neff, Mitch Seavey and Ryan Redington chased the leaders. Behind them, many teams were stopped in Ophir or McGrath to take their required 24-hour break.
Alaska Public Media’s Tegan Hanlon contributed to this report.
Image at top: Dallas Seavey arrives at the Nikolai checkpoint Tuesday morning. He pulled in 12 minutes after Sass. Nikolai is about a quarter of the way into the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race. (Jeff Chen/Alaska Public Media)