Yesterday I made the bold prediction that Lance Mackey would cruise to his third consecutive Iditarod title, and that Jeff King would over take Sebastian Schnuelle to move into third place on the way to Nome. I even thought there would be an outside shot that I’d be able to announce the winner of the year’s race by now. But, mother nature had other plans.
Yesterday, as the teams approached the coast, weather conditions turned brutal, with temperatures plummeting and nasty winds coming into play. Out on the trail, the mushers and their dogs endured -50º F temperatures, and the blowing snow made it impossible to see their way. Mackey made it into Koyuk, where he ended up staying for most of the day, while plenty of others were caught out on the trail when the conditions went bad. King actually turned around and went back to Shaktoolik, and according to this great post over at the Iditablog, is holed up in an old, run-down shack with a couple of other mushers and their dogs.
As of now, Mackey is into Elim and still in first place. Schnuelle is running in second, with John Baker in third. Both of them are through the checkpoint at Koyuk and are out on the trail somewhere, trying to chase Mackey down.
There has been some trouble at the back of the pack as well, as three rookie mushers got into some trouble yesterday. Race officials became worried when the three, who were traveling together at the time, were long overdue for the next checkpoint. Search teams were sent out and they discovered Lou Packer on the trail, with two of his dogs dead, the cause of which is currently unknown. Lou and his team were lifted off the course at that time. The other two mushers, Kim Darst and Blake Matray ended up scratching as well, and had to be led off the course by a snow mobile team who came to find them. The high winds had covered the trail in snow leaving them stranded and unsure where to go to the next checkpoint.
Hopefully we’ll have more news soon. It looks like Mackey still is the odds on favorite to finish first, and the battle is on for second and third. There will be a major scramble for the rest of the spots on the leaderboard once conditions improve.
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