Tuesday, March 7, 2017

First to the Yukon!

Nicolas Petit at the finish of the
Tustumena 200. January 29, 2017
Just over 32 hours into the race, we have the First to the Yukon award winner - Nicolas Petit of Girdwood ran his team into the checkpoint of Tanana at 6:44pm. Several other teams have followed, including Martin Buser, with Mackey and the elder Seavey unofficially also into the checkpoint. As part of the "winnings" for the First to the Yukon, Petit will reportedly dine on King Crab, clams, shrimp, smoked duck, lamb chops, mango sorbet & Dom Perignon. Hopefully the musher isn't allergic to anything.

Further down in the race, there are plenty of teams just miles from the the Yukon. It's about -15 below tonight, but it looks like for the next few days the cold will pass and while still not the balmy temps they're more used to in the first couple of days of Iditarod racing, it's closer to it than what it's been the last 30+ hours. (Seriously, -35 at the start?! Who does that?!)

There are only 3 teams who haven't made it to Manley Hot Springs. Ellen Halverson is not the current red lantern so if she keeps up her pace and can keep the other two at bay (and they aren't DQed/Withdrawn) she should finish this year.

So where do the teams go from here? This is where the strategies will begin to take shape. The Yukon trip is broken up on the Fairbanks route when it detours further north to the Mushing equivilent of the Holy Land known as the village of Huslia. We saw the run from Tanana to Huslia (yes there are checkpoints in there, but I'm just talking this section) really separate the teams. Strategies blew to pieces, others allowed themselves to second guess and they lost just enough ground. In 2015 the Huslia trail was completely new. Not used in 2003. This time it's fresh in the memories of most of the front runners. They've got their plans in place. They know what they did wrong and what they did right last time.

It's still far too soon to tell who will win (if we're lucky we'll see the winner a week from tonight), it's still too soon to predict the winning strategy, but we're starting to see statements made. Will it be another "perfect schedule" from the teams like the Seaveys, where a monster is built and released at the opportune moment? Or will we see a more throwback winner in someone like Nicolas Petit who makes it up as they go along? Waiting in the wings and making sure they aren't forgotten are King, Buser, and Zirkle. Familiar names - two, like Dallas, are gunning for the fifth title... the other trying desperately not to be runner up yet again.

Most teams will bed down for 6 hours or so. Get some sleep. It'll probably be the last day before the 24s that we can sleep and not miss something important.

*since starting typing this blog, the top 10 are all into (or just about into) Tanana*

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