Fiedler takes lead on speedy Iditarod trail

Posted: Tuesday, March 05, 2002

RAINY PASS (AP) -- This normally quiet lodge was bustling with activity Monday as nearly two dozen dog teams bedded down for a rest as the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race moved into its second day.

Planes were coming in and taking off, but the mushers and dogs slept through the heat of the day.

Only Linwood Fiedler, last year's runner-up, continued on into the sunny afternoon, putting him ahead of the pack. Fielder, the sixth musher into Rainy Pass, headed out after just 40 minutes.

''The trail is wonderful. It's the best I've ever seen,'' said veteran Charlie Boulding as he tended to his dogs. Boulding led racers into this checkpoint at 10:56 a.m. and settled in for a rest.

Boulding, running his 10th Iditarod, said he arrived hours earlier than he expected due to the excellent, hard-packed trail.

The checkpoint at Rainy Pass Lodge is at the base of the pass itself, which takes racers to an altitude of 3,160 feet, the highest point on the trail, before they make the treacherous descent down the Dalzell Gorge.

Boulding arrived here just four minutes ahead of DeeDee Jonrowe of Willow. Three-time Iditarod champion Jeff King appeared eight minutes later, followed by John Baker of Kotzebue at 11:26 a.m. and 1976 Iditarod champion Jerry Riley of Nenana at 11:56 a.m. Rainy Pass is 224 miles from the start in Anchorage.

Montana musher Doug Swingley, who has won the last three Iditarods, was still at the Finger Lake checkpoint Monday afternoon. He arrived there in 37th place at 12:17 p.m., barely half an hour before race leader Fiedler left Rainy Pass, 30 miles ahead.

Swingley was in no hurry to be out in front, he told KNOM radio earlier.

''Patience has always been my greatest virtue,'' he said just before leaving the Skwentna checkpoint as the sun rose Monday.

Swingley said some drivers have tried to get a jump on him early in previous races.

''I say they've been trying to do that for a long time and it doesn't work,'' he said, laughing.

Also resting at Rainy Pass Monday afternoon were Ramy Brooks, Jon Little, Vern Halter, Jim Lanier, Sonny Lindner, Nils Hahn, Mitch Seavey, Sonny King, Ray Redington Jr., Tim Osmar, Lance Mackey, Bruce Lee, Kjietil Backen, Robert Sorlie, Aliy Zirkle, and Al Hardman.

Martin Buser, a three-time Iditarod champion, left Finger Lake at 7:14 a.m. Monday and probably was resting along the trail instead of coming into the checkpoint. Harald Tunheim was also out of Finger Lake, followed by five-time champion Rick Swenson.

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