I’ve been posting stats all day showing that the mushers in front at Nikolai usually ends up in the front at Nome. The run from Nikolai to McGrath is an even stronger indicator. The team that ‘wins’ that run is the team to beat. Maybe not the first team, but the one with the strong run time and good position.
Right now, that’s Jessie Royer. She left Nikolai in 2nd, right behind Richie Diehl, and she’s passed him and put a mile of trail between them. There’s nothing but markers between her and Nome. There are a lot of them to be sure, 700 miles worth, but she’s in charge.
If she falters, the next 4 teams – Richie Diehl, Aaron Burmeister, Wade Marrs and Travis Beals – would all be first time champions, too.
To win the Iditarod you have to do a lot of things right. First you must pay your dues. No rookie has won since the 3rd race. Since those first three races, new winners average 5 Iditarods before they win. They must master the three legs of building a championship caliber team, genetics, training, and nutrition. Equipment gets a lot of attention, but really doesn’t make much difference. Lance Mackey once won the Iditarod driving a sled he’d traded for at the start line.
Then there’s the luck factor. Both in training and on the race itself, you’ve got to do everything right, and then catch some breaks. Just like your favorite sports team, they have to avoid injuries and have a few bounces go their way.
Pete Kaiser having dogs in heat in the race is a bad break.
When many of the lead pack jumped out early in the race to avoid deteriorating trails on Monday, it was a calculated risk. They traded rest in exchange for a better trail. Jessie stayed back, running 25th thru Finger and 13th through Rainy. The trail didn’t change, and she had one of the fastest runs to Rohn. That’s a good bounce.
The mushers know better than anyone how it’s going. They’re notoriously coy, either being humble when they have it, or trying to stay positive when they don’t. While they can be hard to read, you can’t fake a smile. Watch the interviews, you can tell who likes what they’re driving, and who’s more concerned about making it. There’s a video on Insider titled “It’s a Happy Jessie Royer in Nikolai.”
If Jessie were to win, she would become the most experienced musher to ever do so, this being her 18th Iditarod. John Baker currently holds that distinction winning on his 16th. Mitch is the only other winner in double digits. Danny
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