Mackey says 5th win unlikely in mishap-plagued Iditarod; Buser in lead

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Four-time winner Martin Buser is leading the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race from Anchorage to Nome. Buser was the first musher to reach the Takotna checkpoint about 420 miles from Anchorage on Tuesday night.

Behind him, a pack of six mushers had left the McGrath checkpoint. They’re led by defending champion Lance Mackey, who said earlier in the day that a fifth victory in the 1,150-mile race didn’t look promising.

Close behind Mackey were mushers Sebastian Schnuelle, Hugh Neff, Ray Redington Jr., Mitch Seavey and Robert Bundtzen.

Three of the 62 mushers who started the race have scratched.

The Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race is proving to be a challenge for even the most accomplished mushers this year.

Defending champion Lance Mackey says a fifth victory in the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race does not look likely.

According to the race’s official website, Mackey pulled into the Nikolai checkpoint carrying two dogs in his sled, and had just put a third dog back in the team after carrying it for a ways. Mushers will carry dogs when they aren’t pulling well.

Mackey says he’s not going to count himself out yet – and he has come back from adversity before to win the Iditarod – but he says victory does not look likely at this point.

Mushers begin the 1,150-mile race with 16-dog teams. Mackey left Nikolai, about 350 miles from Anchorage, with 12 dogs.

Four-time champion Martin Buser was the first musher into the Nikolai checkpoint on Tuesday morning, but not without challenge.

His dog team became entangled with Jamaican musher Newton Marshall’s team and five of Buser’s dogs got free. Another musher found three of the dogs and two trotted into the next checkpoint on their own, but the mishap cost Buser time.

The top five mushers have been running close together on the trail. Buser was followed into Nikolai by Robert Bundtzen, Hugh Heff, Ray Redington Jr. and Lance Mackey. Buser rested in Nikolai for four hours and left about 12:31 p.m. Next out was Sebastian Schnuelle, who left at 1:09 p.m. after resting just under four hours.

Five-time champion Rick Swenson crashed his sled and perhaps broke his collar bone. And veteran Iditarod musher DeeDee Jonrowe got lost before turning her sled around and finding the trail again.

At the back of the pack, Bob Storey is the only musher who has yet to check in at Rainy Pass. He’s been at the Finger Lake checkpoint for 24 hours.

Race officials also said Tuesday afternoon that veteran musher Paul Gebhardt scratched in Nikolai out of concern for his team.

Two other mushers, Melissa Owens and Zoya DeNure, have scratched.

Source: Fairbanks Daily News-Miner

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