Nearly a third of Iditarod field scratched, including Nic Petit caught in storm, while Quince Mountain withdrawn

Nicolas Petit pets his dogs at the 2020 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race ceremonial start in Anchorage Saturday, March 7, 2020. (Joey Mendolia/Alaska Public Media)

Nearly a third of the 57 mushers in this year’s Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race have scratched, including a Girdwood’s Nicolas Petit, who activated an alert button seeking rescue Thursday morning because of weather conditions.

Thomas Waerner of Norway won this year’s race, crossing the finish line in Nome early Wednesday. Eighteen other mushers have completed the race by Thursday morning with another 20 still on the trail.

Related: ‘An actual dream’: Norwegian musher Thomas Waerner notches first Iditarod victory

For Petit, it’s the third straight year he’s encountered problems late in the race, including getting lost in a blizzard two years ago and his dogs quitting on him last year.

Petit on Thursday activated his alert button between the checkpoints of Elim and White Mountain, which is the second-to-last checkpoint in the race.

“In combination of weather and resulting trail conditions, Petit was not able to continue, and by activating his SOS, Petit scratched,” the Iditarod said in a statement.

Race marshal Mark Nordman reports the area was experiencing a large coastal storm, which was affecting the trail.

A search and rescue team helped Petit and his dog team to a shelter cabin. Nordman spoke to Petit on a satellite phone to confirm that both the musher and his team of 11 dogs were fine.

Petit told him he intends to wait out the storm at the cabin, and then then mush to either Elim or White Mountain to arrange transport off the trail.

Two years ago, Petit had a healthy lead in the race until he got lost in blizzard in another Being Sea coastal storm. He recovered to finish second.

Last year, his dogs quit running in nearly the same location as 2018. He blamed it on the dogs having a bad memory from getting lost there the year before.

This year’s race started March 8 in Willow for 57 mushers. Since then, 17 have scratched.

One musher, rookie Quince Mountain, has been withdrawn by race officials. In a written statement, the Iditarod said Nordman, the race marshal, made the decision in Unalakleet to withdraw Mountain based on a rule related to “competitiveness.”

The statement said Mountain had his full team of 14 dogs and that “both Mountain and his race team are in good health.”

Mountain was far at the back of the Iditarod field, having fallen behind in a race marked by concerns over the spread of coronavirus, causing modifications to checkpoints that kept mushers and other visitors out of communities along the trail.

In a tweet, Blair Braverman, Mountain’s wife and a 2019 Iditarod finisher, attributed the withdrawal to those coronavirus-related changes.

“Because of increasing coronavirus precautions, the Iditarod is closing checkpoints early and has withdrawn Q from the race,” Braverman wrote. “They are flying his healthy team of 14 dogs back to Anchorage. It’s heartbreaking. Q told the dogs they did so well that they won Iditarod early.”

Related: Follow all of our coverage of the 2020 Iditarod here.