The 39th Iditarod is underway and shaping up to be a heart-stopping race

The 39th Iditarod is underway and already it’s shaping up to be one exciting race.  The trail is fast this year, maybe one

Lance Mackey heading out of Willow at the Restart. Photo courtsey of Cleo Sipin.

of the fastest ever.  The weather and temps ideal, so far.  The leading teams have reached Takotna and declared their 24, or in 4 time defending champ Lance Mackey’s case “declared” his 24.  He gets quotations since he declared 24, but asked to be parked in short term.  Lance told Iditarod Insider that he intended to wait 6-8 hours and reassess his dog team to decide if he stayed or moved on.  So far the early leaders of this race are 4 time defending champ, Lance Mackey, and 4 time Iditarod champion Martin Buser, both looking for their 5th win.  Also amongst the leaders are Sebastian Schnuelle and Hugh Neff.

As a huge fan of The Back-to-Back-to-Back-to-Back Champion Lance “Sir-Wins-A-Lot” Mackey, I’ll be doing more coverage of his race than the other competitors.  Though I wish the best, and a safe race, to Buser, Neff, Shnuelle and all the competitors.

Lance took the early lead for the first few checkpoints.  Though leading the pack in the first half of the race usually means very little in terms of who wins and loses.  Who you watch are the teams at the front.  Unfortunately, Lance was plagued early on with dog problems. He had to drop his Superstar Leader Maple (you’ll remember she led the team nearly the whole way to Nome last year, in addition to being beyond freakin’ adorable) due to a minor shoulder injury at Rainy Pass.  Then at Nikolai he dropped 3 more dogs -Jester, Pimp and Lippy; all veterans of Mackey’s team.  Lance told ADN  that the dogs weren’t pulling or eating right, they seemed sore.

Mackey did what he’s always done, put his dogs’ health and well being first over race standings or his personal ambitions.

“They’re not right and I’m not one to jeopardize the future of my dogs just for my own personal satisfaction,” he said.

From his early Iditarods on, Lance has always held that his number one priority, number one goal is to get a healthy,happy team to Nome.  It’s to have the happy, healthiest team running under the burrled arch.  And if that means a win, then that’s great, if it doesn’t that’s ok too, because it’s all about the dogs.

Even though he’s down to 12 now, don’t count Lance out yet.  He and his dogs are fierce competitors; and he’s worked magic with only 12 dogs in numerous past races.

Martin Buser has led the last few checkpoint, but Lance is right there with him.

There’s lots of great Lance footage and interviews from the trail on the Iditarod Insider. Also, check out Lance’s Comeback Kennel’s website for some trail footage.

As of noon, Pacific Coast time, on March 9th, Martin and Lance sit in Takotna. From here on out, the race will get very interesting.

Go Lance! Cheering you on for Number 5!

Now I’ll leave you all with a cool Lance moment from the trail….

Lance Mackey stopped on the trail for a fan who had made a sign for him, cheering him on for victory number 5. He's always so gracious to fans, taking time at checkpoints or stopping on the trail to thank them and make their Iditarod experience that much more special! Photo courtesy of Nancy Stewart and ADN.

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~ by Genevieve Hathaway on March 9, 2011.

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