Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Competitive Edge

Training season is over and we can’t wait to see what Team Baker can achieve in Iditarod40.

Returning as the defending champs, the Team Baker dogs have arrived! To Anchorage, that is, for the start of the 2012 Iditarod Sled Dog Race. Even though the pressure to repeat last year’s win has been rising, what is most apparent from Baker is the respect he has for the competition.

The most recent opportunity John had to demonstrate a high regard for the competition was in January when Rohn Buser beat Baker by 30 minutes to win the Kusko 300 Sled Dog Race. In fact, when asked by KYUK Radio what it would have taken for Baker to defeat Buser we heard John respond by acknowledging Rohn and the Buser family and he reminded us that this is “Rohn’s day.”

Ramey Smyth and John Baker in Nome
2011 Iditarod Sled Dog Race
Others showed similar qualities at the finish of the 2011 Iditarod race. When interviewed by the Anchorage Daily News, second place finisher Ramey Smyth said "It's a little hard not to win," and added "But there's no person in this world that I'd rather be beaten by, if I came in second, than John.”

Also interviewed by the Anchorage Daily News, Four-time Iditarod champion Lance Mackey called Baker "a cool cat” and said, "The thing I like about John -- he don't get his feathers ruffled easily. He's calm. He's very patient with his dogs," and he went on to say, "But he's a perfectionist. You don't see him making wasted moves or yelling or discouraged with the dogs' performances."

Compliments aren’t the only thing on the rise lately. Iditarod40 features six champion race entrants plus many more top contenders who are hungry for a win. Expectations are being stoked for a very ultra competitive race. Can we assume there is tension between all these teams eager to beat yesterday’s record? What’s with all the compliments and where are the tensions and when will we hear some competitive smack?

It’s unlikely we’ll hear negative comments from John Baker about his competition. Why? “Getting an edge on the competition isn’t done by measuring my team to the other teams,” says Baker. He explains that he doesn’t set out to race against the other teams “based on what they can do.” Baker seeks to achieve a competitive advantage by focusing on “what his team can do better than any other.”

Even the mightiest of teams need a strong field to be their best and Iditarod40 has a long list of challengers. Despite an absence of smack talk, we can be assured each musher is gearing up to show what his/her team can do best.

Who will be out in front and stay in front or fail to be in the lead and retreat remains to be seen.