The 2010 Iditarod has been officially underway since last Saturday, when the ceremonial start took place in Anchorage. On Sunday, the mushers and their teams moved over to Willow, where the real race began. Now, five days into this year’s race, the top of the leaderboard is crowded with familiar names, any of whom could potentially be the first to cross the finish line in Nome.
It has been tough going so far for most of the field, as deep snow has made for slow progress until the mushers cleared the Alaska Range, when speeds began to pick up again. The Hans Gatt and Cim Smyth, top two racers, are currently into Ophir. Gatt has a 53 minute lead over Smyth at the moment, but both could leave the checkpoint at the same time depending on how aggressive their strategies are.
Currently in third place, and into the Takotna checkpoint, is four time champion Jeff King, who always seems to be lurking near the top of the standings. Mitch Seavey and John Baker hold down the fourth and fifth spots respectively, also into Takotna. Sebastian Schnuelle, Hugh Neff, Sven Haltmann, three time defending champ Lance Mackey, and Gerry Willomitzer round out the top ten.
King claimed the Penair Spirit of Alaska Award for being the first musher into McGrath. The award is a specially designed Spirit Mask an includes $500 of airfare or shipping on Peninsula Airways. This is just one of several awards that are given out to mushers for reaching checkpoints first.
Meanwhile, yesterday saw the first teams of the 2010 race scratch. According to the Iditablog, Michael Suprenant, Zoya DeNure, Karin Hendrickson, and Michael Suprenant all withdrew from the race at the Rainy Pass checkpoint. The reasons for the scratch ranged from medical reasons, to a broken sled.
Finally, a scary report from the trail as rookie musher Pat Moon, from Chicago, IL, was also forced to scratch after he crashed in the Dalzell Gorge. Apparently, Moon hit a tree and was found unconscious by fellow musher Sam Deltour. Moon was airlifted back to Anchorage and his dog team was taken into Rohn. All of the pups are said to be in good condition, and they are being transported back to Anchorage as well to rejoin their musher.