2011 Iditarod: Buser Leads Into Nikolai

The 2011 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race

As I mentioned last week, the 2011 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog race got underway over the weekend, with 62 mushers and their teams setting out from Willow, Alaska on Sunday after the ceremonial start in Anchorage the day before. They’re now two days into the event, which is an 1131 mile dash to Nome through some of the most remote backcountry in a state that specializes in remote backcountry.

As of this writing, the top racers have reached Nikolai, which is approximately 347 miles into the race. The first person to reach that point was four time champ Martin Buser, who seems to be racing well at the moment. Just minutes behind him was Robert Bundtzen and Hugh Neff, with Ray Redington Jr and Lance Mackey rounding out the current top five. Sebastian Schnuelle is the only other musher into Nikolai so far.

The trail conditions at the front are said to be good, but as more dogs and sleds chew up the route, it said to be getting kind of gnarly for those further back in the pack. Five time Iditarod champ Rick Swenson, who is currently running in 28th place, injured his shoulder when he took a fall on the Happy River Steps between Rainy Pass and Rohn this morning. He has elected to continue racing, but the extent of the injury is not known.

Two mushers have withdrawn from the race, which actually isn’t a bad attrition rate two days in. Both Zoya DeNure and Melissa Owens elected to not continue upon reaching Rainy Pass. DeNure withdrew for the best interest of her dog team while Owens suffered an a pre-race injury to her leg, which she re-injured somewhere out on the trail.

Stay tuned for more updates. With over 700 miles yet to run, the race is obviously up for grabs, but there are some big names already hanging around at the top. If Lance Mackey is anywhere close to the front in the latter stages of the race, will anyone bet against him?

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