Friday, March 8, 2013

Up the Yukon by Myron Angstman

Martin Buser  has a substantial lead, and   he won’t give it up without  a fight.    He is a veteran racer with some winning experience, and he hasn't  done so well recently.  It is quite possible he will never hit the Yukon  with  a big lead again.   He won’t be waiting for anyone.

That said,  no one among the chase pack is going to concede first place just yet.  There are a number of teams of interest in that group, but the one that  has caught my eye from the stats is  Jake Berkowitz.  Before the race he would have figured as a dark horse, based on performance in other races this year and the past.  Few would have predicted  a win for him.  But I first spotted his time coming into Takotna from McGrath, which was fastest on  the trail.   The reported times are not always perfect, for a lot of reasons,  but  his reported time was consistent  with other  flashes of speed he had shown earlier.  Today, he had another  fast run to Grayling from Anvik, tops among the front runners by ten minutes in a run listed as 20 miles,  at the end of a long run from Shageluk.   Those end of run times count, because they show that a team has speed plus endurance.  White Mountain, the next to last checkpoint which is often viewed as  the unofficial finish line, is obviously at the end of a very long run, and  Berkowitz has shown that he is likely to be at  the top of his game during  that last  stretch.

Rookie Joar Leifseth Ulsom is running third right now and catching some attention.  For a rookie he is running in pretty fast company, but he does have a bundle of experience.   He has moved up rapidly in the last two days, and it is in this stretch of the race that such moves really mean something.    John Baker  has what seems to be an  insurmountable task in catching so many fast teams.

There was some suspense on the trail today as Martin Buser headed out of Grayling to Eagle Island before the  dog food and straw had been delivered to that location.   At last word it was on its way from Kaltag in less than ideal flying weather,  but at least there were no mountains in the way.  The Yukon is wonderful for that  well  known Alaska navigation system known as IFR, short for  I Follow River. 

Between Eagle Island and Unalakleet, big moves from the chase teams can be expected.  Sometimes those moves pay off, other times  they leave a team resting for hours along the trail.  Keep an eye on the tracker.

Myron Angstman, lawyer, pilot, and dog musher, lives in Bethel, Alaska. Read more about dogs, law suits and rural Alaska gossip by checking 

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