IDITAROD (AP) -- Linwood Fiedler of Willow took an unprecedented gamble in the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race Thursday, regaining the lead when he left Iditarod without yet taking his mandatory 24-hour break.
Defending champion Doug Swingley of Lincoln, Mont., said no one has ever waited so long to make the mandatory stop, as far as he knows.
Swingley predicted that Fiedler will pay the price for pushing his dogs through Iditarod -- roughly the halfway point 1,100-mile race -- before taking the 24-hour rest.
''I tried to talk him out of it,'' Swingley said. ''I thought he was in a real good position.''
Swingley said the 90-mile stretch from Ophir to Iditarod was hard on his dogs. It was icy and there was no snow.
By the time Swingley got to Iditarod, his team was tired but would have gone farther without any problem. Swingley was the first to arrive in Iditarod, beating Fiedler, but he decided to stay for his mandatory 24 along with other leading racers, John Baker, Mitch Seavey and Rick Mackey.
Swingley was awarded a halfway prize of $3,000 in gold nuggets. Fiedler earned $2,000 in gold.
Martin Buser, Jeff King and Rick Swenson took their 24-hour rests earlier at Takotna.
Fiedler spent just short of eight hours resting in Iditarod, then headed out about 10 a.m. Thursday.
Swingley, allowed to leave about 1 a.m. Friday, took his mandatory 24 hours in Iditarod in 1995 and 1999, both years that he won the race on the southern route used in odd years. A northern route is run on even years.
''I'm just an old guy stuck in the groove,'' Swingley said. ''I know what works.''
Swingley shrugged off Fiedler's lead. Fiedler's own 24-hour layover would put Swingley three to five hours ahead, by Swingley's calculations. Swingley was more concerned with musher Jeff King, saying his dogs have the necessary speed.
Swingley said he's sticking to his usual game plan. He said if Fiedler takes his 24 at the wrong place and pushes his dogs too hard, he could end up trotting his team all the way to Nome.
Seavey, doing his 24 at Iditarod, agreed it was a mistake for Fiedler to push his team without a longer rest. The Seward musher said the trail out of Ophir was marred by icy dirt patches and large mossy humps that kept the dogs from developing a good running rhythm.
''They wouldn't run,'' Seavey said. ''They were in a guarded and defensive posture, their heads down and looking around. It was forever long.''
John Baker arrived at the halfway point almost at the same time as Seavey, with Seavey's sled only about 20 feet behind.
That meant that Baker got $1,000 in gold nuggets for reaching Iditarod third, but remembered the kindness that Seavey showed him along the trail after he hit a stump and broke his sled.
Seavey said they'd been traveling together on and off and he helped Baker fix it.
When the two arrived in Iditarod, Seavey said Baker said:
''He says I have to pick a couple of nuggets for earrings for my wife ... I will, you bet.''
Sixty-eight teams began the mushing marathon from Anchorage to Nome on Sunday. Three have scratched. A fourth musher, Bob Morgan of Big Lake, was officially withdrawn Wednesday for having a noncompetitive team.
The mushers are competing for a share of the record $550,000 purse. The winner takes home more than $62,000 and a new pickup truck.
On the Net:
Peninsula Clarion ©2013. All Rights Reserved.