KALTAG (AP) Norway's Robert Sorlie set a blistering pace of 11 miles per hour as he maintained his lead Thursday in the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race, arriving first at the Kaltag checkpoint.
Sorlie, with a team of 13 dogs, arrived in Kaltag at 3:04 p.m. after spending 3 hours, 49 minutes on the trail from Nulato.
Four-time Iditarod winner and defending champion Martin Buser was about 3 1/2 hours behind him, leaving Nulato at 3:45 p.m., spending less than a minute in the checkpoint as he gave chase.
Buser noted that in the run from Tanana three checkpoints back he had been able to give his dogs equal time resting and running, considered ideal by mushers.
Three-time Iditarod winner Jeff King arrived at the Nulato checkpoint 45 minutes after Buser, but instead of passing through was staying put for a while, perhaps to rest his team. King has all 16 starters.
John Baker of Kotzebue, who finished third last year, checked out of Galena just before 5 a.m. and was in fourth place. Temperatures dipped to minus 12 degrees in Galena overnight.
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., to put him in fifth place. He also is running at full steam with 16 dogs.
Ramy Brooks, who finished second last year, was in 10th position Thursday, but didn't appear concerned.
I'm going to have a better finish,'' he said, as he stewed up a post of beaver and hamburger. As long as I keep them positive with rest, and ... work through and rework the strategy as we go down the river.''
The trail so far has been fairly smooth maybe too smooth, said rookie musher Randy Chappel of Arlington, Texas, shortly before leaving the Ruby checkpoint at 10:23 a.m. to return to the wide frozen Yukon River. Chappel was in 27th position.
The river is easy but pretty monotonous,'' Chappel said as he put booties on his dogs. I'm bored with it already and I've got hundreds of miles left to go on it.''
Sixty-two mushers remain in the race.
Lance Barve of Willow and Peter Bartlett, also of Willow, scratched Wednesday.
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