ANCHORAGE, Alaska — Dallas Seavey on Monday won the pandemic-shortened Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race, matching the most wins ever by a musher.
Seavey brought his 10 dogs across the finish line near Willow, Alaska, with a healthy lead over the second place musher, Aaron Burmeister.
It’s the fifth title for the 34-year-old Seavey. He matches the five-win threshold that only one other musher has accomplished. Rick Swenson won his five titles between 1977 and 1991.
It’s also a triumphant return for Seavey who, at age 34, many believe could one day become the Iditarod’s greatest champion.
Seavey won four titles in a five-year span, starting in 2012. He last raced in 2017 after Iditarod officials said four of his dogs tested positive for a banned opioid painkiller.
He vehemently denied giving his dogs any painkillers. A year later, the Iditarod reversed course and cleared Seavey of any wrongdoing.
But he sat out the race until this year, choosing to compete with his dogs in Europe instead.
This year’s Iditarod had a route change and was shortened to about 850 miles (1,368 kilometres) because of the pandemic.
The Iditarod began March 7 with 46 mushers who bypassed most rural Alaska villages that normally serve as checkpoints as a COVID-19 safety precaution, leaving the competitors to sleep in tent camps outside towns or under the stars in temperatures that have reached minus 55 degrees (minus 48 C).
Since then, nine have scratched including fan favourite Aliy Zirkle, who was injured in a fall in what she has said would be her last race. Another musher, Gunnar Johnson, was withdrawn after he tested for positive for COVID-19, leaving 36 teams in the race.
Mushers started the race near Willow, about 50 miles (80 kilometres) north of Anchorage. From there, they travelled to the ghost town of Iditarod and then turned back around to finish in Willow.
A normal race is about 1,000 miles (1,609-kilometre), and takes mushers across the wilds of Alaska from Willow to the finish line in Nome, on the state’s Bering Sea coast.
Mark Thiessen, The Associated Press