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 http://www.myronangstman.com/