Only 40 sled dog teams remain in the hunt for the 2021 Iditarod title and four-time champion Dallas Seavey opened up a 20-mile lead as of daybreak on Saturday morning. Seavey has 12 dogs in harness and they have 211 miles remaining in their exhausting trek through the Alaskan wilderness before reaching the finish line at Deshka Landing.
The 2021 Iditarod whittled down to 40 mushers racing on the Gold Loop Trail after Rick Casillo and rookie Chris Parker scratched. Casillo pulled out of the race because he was worried about the health of his 13 dogs.
The lead mushers are midway between the Nikola and Rohn checkpoints. Aaron Burmeister, with all 14 original dogs in harness, trails Seavey by 20 miles.
Ryan Redington, who led for most of the first-third of the race, is in third place. Redington’s team is down to nine dogs.
|2021 IDITAROD STANDINGS|
|DOGS||MILES TO GO|
|1. Dallas Seavey||12||211|
|2. Aaron Burmeister||14||231|
|3. Ryan Redington||9||235|
|4. Brent Sass||13||235|
|5. Joar Leifseth Ulsom||13||238|
|6. Nicolas Petit||12||247|
|7. Mille Porsild||11||247|
|8, Travis Beals||11||247|
|9. Jessie Royer||12||247|
|10. Richie Diehl||13||247|
Teams turned around at the Iditarod checkpoint and retraced the Gold Loop Trail south back to Deshka Landing. On Friday, mushers leaving Iditarod passed teams on the trail going the other way. It was a little weird for that to happen, but then again, this is the Iditarod in the age of COVID-19.
Riley Dyche, currently in 40th and last place, is resting at the turnaround checkpoint at the old mining town of Iditarod.
Day 5: Ghost Town Turnaround to Ophir
Brent Sass arrived in Iditarod first, but he lost the lead when he took his mandatory 24-hour break in Iditarod. Seavey had already taken his 24-hour break the day before. After a quick four-hour rest stop in Iditarod, Seavey was the first musher to turnaround and head south on the trail.
“We know there’s challenges out there (on the trail), but it will be different going through them the other way,” said Sass about the turnaround.
Seavey reached the Ophir checkpoint first and a nearly two hours ahead of Redington.
“I’m not giving up yet,” said Redington, who knew he was in trouble with the four-time champ pulling away from the chase pack.
Richie Diehl was only a few minutes behind Redington in third place.
Day 6: McGrath to Nikola Cannonball Run
Early on Friday morning, roughly at 4:20am local time, Seavey and 13 dogs in harness arrived at the Ophir checkpoint. As the leader and first one back to Ophir, Seavey won the Lakefront Anchorage First Musher to the Yukon Award. Seavey and five dinner guests won a five-course gourmet meal, a bottle of Dom Perignon, and $3,500 in cash (awarded in $1 bills).
Despite the frigid temperatures, the trail looked in excellent conditions. The top five mushers swiftly made great time between Ophir and McGrath, which took five hours.
Seavey reached McGrath first, with Sass trailing him by three hours. Wade Mars arrived 4-plus hours behind Seavey, but he moved into third place.
“This is where we actually get to race finally after a year of training,” said Seavey. “The trail will be really, really fast into Nikola.”
“There’s only one person ahead of me, so that’s a good thing,” said Sass. “A lot of race left. A lot of challenges ahead.”
“Dallas has a super dog team and knows what he’s doing,” said Marrs, who was down to 11 dogs in harness. “The chances of him making a mistake are not very good.”
With 200-plus miles to go, the race looks like it’s Seavey’s to lose.
Jessie Royer, who led for the majority of the 2020 Iditarod, moved into the Top 10. She’s less than 250 miles to the finish.