UNALAKLEET, Alaska Norwegian Robert Sorlie left the Kaltag checkpoint Sunday morning with a strong lead in the 1,100-mile Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race.
Sorlie, the 47-year-old firefighter from Hurdal, rested for five hours at Kaltag before starting the 90-mile trek to Unalakleet at 8:44 a.m.
After Unalakleet, it's another 260 miles along the wind-scrubbed coast to the Nome finish line.
Sorlie and his 12-dog team were nearly an hour ahead of veteran Ramy Brooks, runner-up to the Norwegian in the 2003 race. Brooks left Kaltag with 13 dogs only six minutes after checking in.
As of late Sunday afternoon, eight other mushers had left Kaltag, where above-freezing temperatures promised a slow, slushy trail. The temperature in Unalakleet at 3:30 p.m. was 34 with southwest winds of 10 mph.
Four-time winner Martin Buser left at 10:53 a.m., followed just before noon by veteran John Baker and three-time winner Jeff King at 1:46 p.m.
Last year's champion Mitch Seavey pulled out of the checkpoint at 2:06 p.m., followed two minutes later by veteran Ed Iten. Norwegian rookie Bjonar Anderson left at 2:46 p.m., followed a minute later by veteran DeeDee Jonrowe. Four-time winner Doug Swingley was another three minutes back.
All mushers have taken their required 24-hour layovers. All still face a mandatory eight-hour rest at White Mountain, 77 miles from Nome.
Other front-runners at Kaltag included veteran DeeDee Jonrowe, Lance Mackey winner of last month's 1,000-mile Yukon Quest International Sled Dog Race and former Quest winner Aliy Zirkle.
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