WILLOW, Alaska (AP) — The race to Nome starts Sunday for 33 mushers in this year’s Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race in Alaska.
The mushers are to take off every two minutes in a staggered start across a frozen lake about 70 miles (112 kilometers) north of Anchorage. The race starts Sunday afternoon at 2 p.m. local time.
They will travel nearly a thousand miles (1,609 kilometers) over the unforgiving Alaska winterscape, climbing over two mountain ranges, mushing on frozen rivers and streams and across the treacherous Bering Sea ice. The winner is expected to drive their sled dog team down Nome’s Front Street to the iconic burled arch finish line in about 10 days.
Leading the charge will be defending champion Brent Sass, a kennel owner and wilderness guide who lives on a homestead about a four-hour drive northwest of Fairbanks.
Also competing is Pete Kaiser, the 2019 champion. The 33 mushers in the race is the smallest field ever. The very first race, held in 1973, had 34 mushers, but the average number of starters in the first 50 races was 63.
Only having two former champions in the race this year is a rarity.
Several veteran mushers have decided to retire or take a break from the Iditarod, including five-time champion Dallas Seavey, four-time winners Martin Buser and Jeff King and three-time champ Mitch Seavey.