Buser Takes Early Iditarod Lead

Teams prepare for the 2014 Iditarod start in Fairbanks Monday morning.  (Photo By Emily Schwing - APRN)
Teams prepare for the 2014 Iditarod start in Fairbanks Monday morning. (Photo By Emily Schwing – APRN)

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Race Update 6:30: Past Iditarod champion Martin Buser and rookie Thomas Waerner were the first in to and out of Nenana Monday afternoon. They were trailed by Michelle Phillips and Jessie Royer. Buser arrived about 3:00 p.m. He took off shortly before 3:30 p.m. Waerner was bout 30 minutes behind Buser.

DeeDee Jonrowe and Aliy Zirkle left Nenana minutes apart and were trailing the leaders Monday afternoon.

The first mushers started arriving in Normally Iditarod dog teams restart the race from Willow the day after the ceremonial start in Anchorage, but this year, they spent an extra day travelling north for a restart in Fairbanks.  For some teams, the trip to the start line in Fairbanks Monday wasn’t without incident.

Many mushers left for Fairbanks directly from Anchorage’s Campbell airstrip following Saturday’s ceremonial start.  Curt Perano, also known as the Kiwi musher, says the combination of an unreliable dog truck and poor weather had him heading for Fairbanks immediately.

“Yeah we hit a bit of a snowstorm and then Bret Sass his real wheel, so we recovered him and helped haul his dogs up here to Fairbanks, so a six hour trip became like 10 [hours],” Perano said.  “The wheels fell off the truck literally, but yeah, we made it.”

Mushers take off from Fairbanks on Monday. (Photo By Emily Schwing - APRN)
Mushers take off from Fairbanks on Monday. (Photo By Emily Schwing – APRN)

Brent Sass won the Yukon Quest last month.  He says a hairy trip up the Park Highway hasn’t dampened his attitude.

“I feel great. I’m super stoked to get on the trail as always  it’s been kind of a bigger buildup now with the travel after the ceremonial,” he said. “The Iditarod is always a bigger build up than the Yukon Quest anyways, but yeah, I’m stoked.  I can’t wait until the say go.”

But Michelle Phillips was a little nervous.  She accidentally locked, her parka, warm clothes and other gear in her truck, along with the keys.

“Yeah, Murphy’s law.”

Phillips, from Tagish, Yukon tried to laugh it off as she waited for a locksmith arrive. It took a few minutes, but once the truck was open, Phillips was able to concentrate. Her goal is a top ten finish this year.

“You never know until you get out there and see what the race holds for you, you know. I’m just going to try to stick to my schedule, do my plan and see where that takes me,” Phillips said.

Nearby, long-time Iditarod musher Ray Redington, Jr. was scrambling.  His dog truck wouldn’t start, because it wasn’t plugged in overnight. He didn’t comment, but did find a way to make it down the trail, among 78 other teams who will race for Nome over the next two weeks.