The 2020 Iditarod Sled Dog Race is entering its final stages, and true to form it looks like we could have a very dramatic finish. As the teams pull within 100 miles (160 km) of the finish line in Nome, it is still a wide-open race, with four racers through the checkpoint in Elim as of this writing and another dozen in and out of Koyuk. That means that even though they’re nearing the homestretch, it’s still anyone’s race to win, although a three-time former champ has now made his move and seems poised to pounce.
Over the past few days, Norwegian musher Thomas Waerner has been holding down the top spot on the leaderboard, with a number of veteran mushers trying to run him down. So far, he’s managed to hold off all challengers, and as of now he is still running in first place. Lurking in second place however is Mitch Seavey, who has won this race on three separate occasions, including the 2017 edition of the Iditarod. Throughout yesterday, Seavey was holding down the sixth place on the leaderboard, but has had a late surge that has put him into contention. He’s currently running a little faster than Waerner, although it remains to be seen if the can make up enough ground to overtake the leader. Jessie Royer and Aaron Burmeister are currently in third and fourth place respectively and are the other two racers who are in and out of Elim.
The final stages of the 2020 race are being run even as the future of the event is in doubt. A few weeks back, prior to the start of the current edition of the Iditarod, long-time sponsor Alaska Airlines announced that it would no longer be sponsoring the event moving forward. It was revealed yesterday that a local Chrysler Dodge Jeep Ram dealership in Anchorage, which has also been a sponsor for 30 years, will also withdraw from next year’s Iditarod. Traditionally, the dealership has awarded the race winner with a brand-new pick-up truck as part of the prize package. How race organizers replace those long-time sponsors will be crucial to future editions.
For now though, they are focused on bringing the mushers into Nome in a safe and timely fashion. I expect the winner to cross the finish line sometime tomorrow. The question is now, can Waerner hold on to the lead, or will one of his pursuers manage to chase him down?
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