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Norwegian musher first to leave Galena

Posted: Thursday, March 06, 2003

GALENA (AP) -- Top teams in the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race passed through the Galena checkpoint early Thursday, with Norway's Robert Sorlie maintaining his lead.

Sorlie arrived in Galena just after midnight and left about 25 minutes later. Defending champion Martin Buser was about 3 1/2 hours behind him, leaving Galena just before 4 a.m. John Baker of Kotzebue checked out of Galena just before 5 a.m.

Rick Swenson of Two Rivers, the Iditarod's only five-time champion, jumped ahead, closer to the front of the pack. He made a quick stop in Galena before departing at 7:54 a.m.

Three-time champion Jeff King of Denali Park left Galena at 9:26 a.m. He left behind eight teams who made the 50-mile run from Ruby during the night.

Sixty-two mushers remain in the race. Lance Barve of Willow and Peter Bartlett, also of Willow, scratched Wednesday.

Bartlett left the Tanana checkpoint Wednesday morning but returned after going about 25 miles up the Yukon River. There was something wrong with the team, he said. Two of his veteran dogs were unable to keep running.

The crestfallen musher, who finished the Iditarod 26th as a rookie last year, said race veterinarians had checked the dogs and would evaluate them further after they were transported to Anchorage.

Bartlett suspects the dogs were suffering from a virus. They had not wanted to eat since the ceremonial start Saturday in Anchorage on Saturday but had began eating again Wednesday.

''I feel horrible,'' he said, as he fed them patties of beef and tripe. ''My parents in Maine mortgaged their land so I could do this. I wanted to place in the top 25 to get the money back for them,'' he said.

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