Whether it be to experience the adventure of crossing Alaska by dog sled, to cash in on the $750,107 total purse or for the bragging rights of making it all the way to Nome, nearly 100 mushers have signed up for 2006 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race.
“It’s going to be another super race,” said Chas St. George, Iditarod’s public relations director. “We’re pleased with sign-ups. It’s a strong field of mushers again this year.”
The entry deadline closed Thursday, with 99 mushers signed up, of which 61 are from Alaska, seven from the Kenai Peninsula, including 2004 Iditarod champion Mitch Seavey of Seward, his son Dan Seavey of Seward, 2005 Yukon Quest champion Lance Mackey of Kasilof, Tim Osmar of Ninilchik, Bill Hanes of Kasilof, Paul Gebhardt of Kasilof, and rookie Trent Herbst of Homer, who moved to Alaska in 2005 specifically to run the Iditarod.
Osmar, a 20-time veteran of the race also has agreed to serve as Rachael Scdoris’s visual interpreter for the race. Scdoris, a 21-year-old from Bend, Ore., is the first blind musher to compete in the Iditarod.
Osmar will travel ahead of Scdoris on a separate dog sled with a two-way radio to warn her about trail dangers.
“I’m definitely excited about this year’s race. It should be a cool trip,” he said.
Osmar added that training for the race is progressing right on schedule, largely due to the weather conditions where he lives in the Caribou Hills.
“Training has been excellent, actually. The snow has been primo here in the hills for over a month now and the dogs are all cruising along looking really good,” he said.
Gebhardt said he also is looking forward to this year’s race. Based on what he’s already seen from the dogs on the 550-600 miles of training runs they’ve done this season, he may have the team to beat.
“They’re looking good up to this point. We’re ahead of where we’ve been before (with mileage) and they’re really moving fast,” he said.
However, Gebhardt who annually predicts almost to the exact place where he’ll finish in Iditarod said it’s too early to say with certainty how he’ll do on the trek to Nome.
He said he will have to see how his team fares in the Kuskokwim 300 in Bethel in January, and few other mid-distances races that he will use as training, before he makes any prognostications.
“I think we’ll do fine in Iditarod, but I’ll know more after the Kusko. I’m taking my best over there,” he said.
The 2006 Iditarod begins with the ceremonial start March 4 in Anchorage. The official restart is scheduled for March 5 in Wasilla.
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