Thursday update, 8:00 p.m.
Sebastian Schnuelle didn’t have the Iditarod Trail to himself for long after leaving the abandoned town of Iditarod at 5:35 p.m. Thursday.
Hugh Neff of Tok led a chase pack onto the trail at 6:12 p.m. and within 47 minutes he’d been joined by five other front-runners — four-time champion Martin Buser, John Baker of Kotzebue, last year’s runner-up Hans Gatt, four-time defending champion Lance Mackey and Ray Redington, Jr.
Schnuelle heads for Shageluk
Thursday update, 7:00 p.m.
Sebastian Schnuelle of Whitehorse pulled out of the abandoned mining town of Iditarod at 5:51 p.m. Thursday, headed for the village of Shageluk and, beyond that, the Yukon River.
Reports earlier Thursday said deep snow in this portion of the 1,000-mile race to Nome was expected to hamper racers who traveled at record speeds in the early portions of the race. Apparently, word filtered out; nobody was anxious to lead.
Martin Buser arrived in Iditarod at 10:41 a.m., Hugh Neff at 11:26 a.m. and Lance Mackey at 11:47 a.m. — but after their draining 90-mile push from Ophir to Iditarod, nobody was anxious to push on. At 6:45 p.m., all three remained in Iditarod.
Bruce Lee of the Iditarod Insider said:
“From here to Shageluk, the trail breakers are having a little difficulty . . . in deep snow,” said Lee, a seven-time Iditarod finisher. “This could be a real turning point for teams that aren’t suited for traveling on the softer type of trail.
“From here to Shageluk we might see teams that have a lower gear and more power start to benefit. (It) might be a real turning point.”
Rough trails await leaders
Thursday update, 4:05 p.m.
With a dozen teams parked in the abandoned town of Iditarod, Bruce Lee of the Iditarod Insider warned that the speedy pace that held sway in the first portion of the race may slow to a crawl.
"From here to Shageluk, the trail breakers are having a little difficulty . . . in deep snow," said Lee, a seven-time Iditarod finisher. "This could be a real turning point for teams that aren’t suited for traveling on the softer type of trail.
"From here to Shageluk we might see teams that have a lower gear and more power start to benefit. (It) might be a real turning point."
While Lee didn’t mention Big Lake musher Martin Buser, the four-time champion is regarded as musher who loves a fast track. On the other hand, such rural mushers as 26-year-old Mike Williams Jr. of Akiak, seventh into Iditarod, and John Baker of Kotzebue, eighth, might well benefit from conditions requiring power.
Neff cuts into Buser's lead
Thursday, noon update
Buser drove a 14-dog team into the abandoned mining town this morning at 10:41. Neff arrived at 11:26, and third-place Lance Mackey is expected soon.
A four-time champion who last won in 2002, Buser held a 90-minute lead over Neff when he left Ophir shortly after midnight at 12:15. Neff was 90 minutes back, leaving at 1:45 a.m.
The leader of this year's Yukon Quest until his team balked on Eagle Summit, Neff's team of 13 made up ground on the 90-mile run between Ophir and Iditarod.
Earlier today, 2004 race champion Mitch Seavey was withdrawn from the race with an injured hand. He cut some of his fingers while slicing open a bale of straw, according to a report from race officials.
Seavey is on his way to Anchorage. Race officials spoke to his wife, Janine, who said Seavey will be examined by an orthopedic doctor in Anchorage. "Then they will decide how to proceed," race spokesman Chas St. George said.
Herbst collects $3,000
Thursday, 6:45 a.m. update --
Trent Herbst collected the $3,000 prize for being the first musher to the abandoned mining town of Iditarod at 5:29 this morning, while the race's real leader, Big Lake's Martin Buser, maintained his 90-minute lead on a pack of mushers that pursued him out of Ophir early this morning.
Buser, a four-time champion, drove out of Ophir shortly after midnight, at 12:15, behind a team of 14 dogs, one fewer than he arrived with.
Hugh Neff of Tok left 90 minutes later at 1:45 with 13 dogs.
Iditarod, located on the race's southern route, is 90 miles from Ophir and about 530 from Nome
Injured Mitch Seavey is out of the race
Thursday, 6 a.m. update --
Mitch Seavey, the 2004 Iditarod champ, is out of the race with an injured hand.
Race officials said early this morning that race marshal Mark Nordman withdrew the Sterling musher at the Ophir checkpoint.
Seavey was cutting open a bale of straw when he severely injured fingers on his hand, race officials reported. Nordman determined that the injury was severe enough to warrant Seavey's removal from the race.
The decision was made at 4:11 this morning. Seavey was in 15th place at the time.