The 2019 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog race was decided yesterday when the first mushers arrived in Nome. It was a nip and tuck event all the way through, with some exciting racing out in the Alaskan wilderness. While this year’s race had a smaller field than in recent years, it was packed with some of the best mushers in the world. This resulted in numerous lead changes, interesting strategies, and an exciting finish.
After 9 days, 12 hours, and 39 minutes of racing, it was Alaskan-native Peter Kaiser who reached the finish line in Nome first. This was Kaiser’s first victory in the “Last Great Race,” but it didn’t come easy. He completed the course just ahead of rival Joar Leifseth Ulsom, who claimed his first Iditarod win last year. Just 12 minutes separated the top two dog sled teams, with Ulsom arriving in 9 days, 12 hours, and 51 minutes. That’s an incredibly narrow margin for a race that covers nearly 1000 miles (1600 km).
“I really didn’t feel confident until we hit the road and looking back quite often knowing the type of driver that he is.I didn’t count him out, and I knew that he was slow enough that he could make up time quickly if he got his team rolling,” Kaiser said of Ulsom. The 2019 champion went on to add, “Yeah I didn’t feel like I had it won at any point until coming down the road here. I’ve said it before it’s not just about me. There’s 42 dogs in our kennel and our support system is incredible. And the whole community and region and everybody out there… You saw it tonight. Half the town jumped on jets to come up here and watch me finish. It’s incredible. I’m so humbled by that and appreciative. It’s so motivating.”
Since Kaiser and Ulsom finished yesterday a number of other mushers have also come home to Nome. They include Jessie Royer, Ally Zirkle, and Travis Beals, who rounded out the top five in that order. As of this writing, 12 teams have crossed the finish line, with a number of others scheduled to arrive today. The remaining field will trickle in over the days to come.
When we last checked in on the race back on Monday it was Nicolas Petit who was leading the race. He ended up scratching later that day however when his dogs staged a protest and refused to run any further. According to Petit, two of his dogs got into a fight and when he yelled at them to settle down, the other members of the team got upset and refused to go any further. At the time, he was ahead of Kaiser and Ulsom with the potential to claim his first win at the Iditarod. Unfortunately that didn’t happen and now I’ll spend the next 12 months wondering about what could have been.
Congratulations to Peter on a great win. This is the second year in a row that we’ve had a new champion, which should mean another exciting race will be on tap for next year.
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