The 2009 Iditarod continues to be a very competitive race, with a large group fairly close to one another out on the trail. The bulk of the leaders are now in, and out, of Takotna, and making their way to Ophir, where three mushers have already arrived.
As of this writing, the official leaderboard has Martin Buser in to Ophir first, followed by Jim Lanier, with Aaron Burmeister third. Burmeister has a leg up on the other two however, as he has already taken his mandatory 24 hour rest, which will likely come back to haunt Buser and Lanier, as those lurking behind them on the trail have made the decision to take that break already.
Notables that are chasing the top three include Hugh Neff (4), Sebastian Schnuelle (5), Lance Mackey (6), and Jeff King (8), all of whom have taken their mandatory 24-hour rest as well. Schnuelle and Neff recently went one, two at the Yukon Quest in one of the closest races in the history of that race.
The Ophir checkpoint is 444 miles into the race, leaving 687 miles to Nome. At this point in the race, we’re beginning to see the contenders start to separate themselves from the pack, and yet there are still a number of teams that can win this thing. The strategy of when to rest and when to go on, is really interesting to watch, as it can make or break the race for some of these guys. The Iditablog, which has some great content on the race, is also making updates via their Twitter feed. In their latest post, they note that Buser has elected to stay in Ophir, while the others get moving again, and the move will likely cost him a Top 10 finish. That remains to be seen of course, but those who have already rested, will pass him shortly.
Long way to go until Nome of course, but it’s beginning to look like a race between Neff and Schnuelle with Mackey and King nipping at their heels. Should be fun to watch the rest of the way.
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