Dallas Seavey widens lead on way to Iditarod finish

Dallas Seavey mushes near Shell Lake on Sunday during the 2021 Iditarod. (Loren Holmes / ADN)

Update, 3:10 a.m. Monday:

Dallas Seavey widened his lead overnight, as he and his 10-dog team made the final push to the finish line.

By just after 3 a.m. Monday, Seavey had about 16 miles left in the race, according to the Iditarod’s tracker.

Meanwhile, Aaron Burmeister had about 32 miles to the finish, and Brent Sass had roughly 44 miles to go.

Update, 10:45 p.m. Sunday:

Aaron Burmeister and his 10-dog team dashed out of Skwentna at 9:45 p.m. — just as their mandatory eight-hour break ended.

By 10:45 p.m., the Iditarod race tracker showed Dallas Seavey and his dog team about 51 miles from the finish line, and Burmeister about 10 miles behind him.

A 2021 Iditarod winner is expected early Monday morning.

Update, 9 p.m. Sunday:

Around 8:40 p.m., Dallas Seavey put on his blue jacket at the Skwentna checkpoint.

Then, he pulled his snow hook and walked down his team of 10 dogs, petting each one.

And, at exactly at 8:44 p.m., Seavey and the team raced away, fresh off of their mandatory eight-hour rest.

Just 67 miles stood between them and the finish line at Deshka Landing in Willow.

They’ll be chased by Aaron Burmeister, who can leave Skwentna at 9:45 p.m.

Behind him, Brent Sass can depart at 11:40 p.m.

Sass will be followed by Wade Marrs, Mille Porsild, Ryan Redington and Nicolas Petit who were all resting Sunday night at Skwentna.

A 2021 race champion is expected early Monday.

Mille Porsild mushes up a hill before Finger Lake on Sunday, March 14, 2021 during the 2021 Iditarod. (Loren Holmes / ADN)
Richie Diehl mushes up the first part of the Happy River Steps on Sunday, March 14, 2021 during the 2021 Iditarod. The steps are normally a tricky downhill part of the race, but this year mushers are also doing it in reverse. (Loren Holmes / ADN)

Original story:

The race is on: Just an hour separates mushers Dallas Seavey and Aaron Burmeister, with less than 70 miles to the finish line.

Seavey, a four-time Iditarod champion, and his 10-dog team pulled into the Skwentna checkpoint first on Sunday, at 12:44 p.m.

Then, at 1:45 p.m., came Burmeister and his 13 sled dogs.

Seavey, Burmeister and all of the incoming teams must rest in Skwentna for eight hours before making the 67-mile dash to the finish line at Deshka Landing in Willow.

That means Seavey and his dogs can begin their final sprint at 8:44 p.m. Sunday, and Burmeister’s team can race out of the checkpoint at 9:45 p.m.

RELATED: Iditapod: Bouncing back to Willow

Over the past day, Seavey and Burmeister have been leapfrogging each other down the trail.

An Iditarod musher and sled dogs
Aaron Burmeister and his team at the Iditarod race start last Sunday. (Marc Lester / ADN)

Burmeister, who’s from Nome, has his sights set on his first Iditarod victory. 

This is his 20th Iditarod, and he has placed in the top 10 six times, including fifth last year.

At an earlier checkpoint Saturday, Burmeister told the Iditarod’s own media crew, Iditarod Insider, that he’s worked to shrink the gap between him and Seavey on the trail.

But, he said, he didn’t know if he’d be able to shrink it enough to pass Seavey on the final stretch. He didn’t want to sacrifice too much rest for his dogs, he said.

“The team is very strong. Dallas is running a strong team too. So it’s a race, and I’m not going to just let him walk away with it and make it easy,” Burmeister said. “Somebody’s gotta make a push, and I’m going to be that guy I guess.”

Meanwhile, Seavey, who lives in Talkeetna, is aiming for his fifth win, which would tie him with now-retired musher Rick Swenson for the most Iditarod championships ever.

This year is Seavey’s first Iditarod since 2017, when he placed second to his dad, Mitch. Before that, he won the Iditarod three years in a row.

Seavey told the Iditarod Insider on Sunday that he felt good about his hour lead.

“I’m smiling,” he said. “It hurts because my lips are all cracked, but I’m smiling.”

He said he’s tried to race cautiously so far, setting himself up for — he hopes — that fifth win that has proved so elusive for so many mushers.

“The damn thing seems cursed,” he said, punctuating his sentence with laughter. “So I’m like, I’m going to make sure Murphy’s law has no opportunity with us.”

“And I’ve been, just one thing after the next like, I cannot screw this up. Now watch, I’m going to fall asleep or something and go down the wrong river on the homestretch,” he said, rubbing his eyes. “I just want this thing to be over at this point, and just have it in the books. But I am enjoying it, as much as you can in the turmoil we’re in so, yeah.”

RELATED: Dallas Seavey returns to Iditarod after mysterious scandal rocked his mushing career

After Seavey and Burmeister, Eureka’s Brent Sass and his 13 dogs arrived in Skwentna.

Wade Marrs mushes between Puntilla Lake and Finger Lake on Sunday, March 14, 2021 during the 2021 Iditarod. (Loren Holmes / ADN)

Sass got in at 3:40 p.m., in third place, and can leave at 11:40 p.m.

Behind him on the trail were Mille Porsild, Wade Marrs, Ryan Redington and Nicolas Petit.

The Iditarod is expected to have its 2021 champion early Monday.

The winner will get a check for about $40,000, depending on how many other mushers finish the race and split the $400,000 purse, according to Iditarod officials.

By Sunday afternoon — a week into the race — there were 37 teams still on the trail, and spread over more than 200 miles.

RELATED: Follow all of our coverage of the 2021 Iditarod here.

Joar Leifseth Ulsom puts booties on his dogs before leaving the Finger Lake checkpoint on Sunday, March 14, 2021 during the 2021 Iditarod. (Loren Holmes / ADN)

Tegan Hanlon is the deputy digital editor at Alaska Public Media. Reach her at thanlon@alaskapublic.org.

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