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Alaska’s Iditarod sled dog race kicks off this weekend
Alaska's Iditarod sled dog race kicks off this weekend

Alaska’s Iditarod sled dog race kicks off this weekend

A New Zealand dog sled racer will be in pole position when a world famous race gets underway in Alaska today.

Former North Otago man Curt Perano and his team are now based in North America.

He and 68 other ‘mushers’ will race through about 1,600 kilometres of Alaskan wilderness, including two mountain ranges and the Yukon River, for the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race.

Later in the morning, mushers left the starting gate two minutes apart in the staggered launch to the race. Each carried an “Iditarider,” a person who won their seat on the sled in an auction.

The mushers take a leisurely 11-mile jaunt on urban trails within the city of Anchorage. Snow had to be trucked in to cover the streets of downtown Anchorage until mushers could get on the trail system.

A lack of snow and warm temperatures have been a headache for Iditarod officials this winter. In fact, temperatures in Anchorage were in the mid- to upper 40s in the days preceding the start.

Officials had considered moving the official starting point hundreds of miles north to Fairbanks, but said conditions had improved in the weeks ahead of the race to keep it in Willow, outside of Anchorage.

There are six former champions in the field, including defending champion Mitch Seavey, also the 2004 winner.

After Sunday’s start in Willow, mushers will travel nearly a thousand miles, crossing two mountain ranges, the Yukon River and up the Bering Sea coast en route to the finish line on Front Street in Nome, on Alaska’s western coast.


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