Tonight I pick the top five contenders to win the 2014 Iditarod. This is based on current position, speed, history and a bit of intuition. There are some who will question these choices, and please feel free to post on the Baker website your choices. They are probably better than mine.
Robert Sorlie is one of my contenders. This is based primarily on today’s run, but also on his average moving speed which is the highest in the race. He has won twice before, he has had a few years off to get ready for this year, and all indications are he is on a roll.
Another contender Aily Zirkle is a bit harder to figure. Today’s run included a stop not too far from Ruby, suggesting she will run straight through the village and stop later. That puts her on a different schedule and also makes it harder to evaluate her chances. But last year’s second place finish figures into the decision to make her one of the five.
Jeff King also makes the cut, but this is a little longer reach because he will be a long ways behind leaving Ruby. What remains to be seen is how much speed he will gain because of the 24 hour rest he took in Ruby. It might enable him to make a big push down the Yukon, where the trail is very good, downhill, and with a tail wind. His four previous titles figure in my thinking as well.
Sonny Lindner makes the cut for many of the same reasons as King. He actually will have about an hour lead on King leaving Ruby, and has been very impressive in a couple of recent runs. He is the oldest guy left in the race, and those of us who live in the bush know that older people have elder wisdom that shouldn’t be overlooked. By the way, I am older than Lindner.
The final member of the top five is Martin Buser. He is likely to be the first team out of Ruby, and also will likely have his mandatory 8 hour rest completed when he leaves. Zirkle might leave earlier, but if she does she will likely be stopping soon putting Buser back in the lead. His speed is still quite good on recent runs, and the Yukon trail will favor his usually speedy dogs. His past wins also figure in my thinking, but that is tempered somewhat by last year’s race when his early sprint ended up slowing him down a lot at the end.
John Baker does not make the top five cut despite his history of catching up late. He likely will move up in the next few days, but there are too many good teams ahead of him now to put him among the contenders to win. Katherine Keith won’t win, but she sure is having a good run and is a serious candidate for rookie of the year.