It is John Baker, with a solid lead as teams head for Elim, White Mountain, Safety and Nome.
There will be no new five-time winner this year. Martin Buser and Lance Mackey have faded, and Yukon Quest mushers Hans Gatt, Sebastian Schnulle and Hugh Neff are still there in the front pack, pushing hard in the last part of the race. Gatt was the first to follow John Baker across the ice of Norton Sound into Koyuk. Ramey Smyth just a few minutes behind him. Smyth cut rest to try to eat away at Baker’s hour and a half lead, and the top three – Baker, Smyth and Gatt are about an hour apart. Sebastian Schnuelle, Hugh Neff and Dallas Seavey will follow.
John Baker built a lead on the Yukon River, and it was a big one by the time he reached the coast yesterday, and reporter Diana Haecker tells us it was an enthusiastic reception for the first Inupaiq to lead the race there in quite a while.
John Baker has eleven top ten finishes in the Iditarod and Ramey Smyth has seven. When he got to the Yukon River this past weekend, Smyth was already projecting something new for this race, and seemed glad of it.
The next teams behind the top six are Ray Redington Junior, Dee Dee Jonrowe, Jessie Royer and Sonny Lindner.
Photos by Josh Edge, APRN – Anchorage: (Top) Current race leader John Baker leaves Willow. (Right) Ramey Smyth waves at fans on Sunday, March 6, 2011.
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