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The Front Pack of RACE Remains Competive

629 miles in...Iditarod leaders are closing in on Kaltag

 

ON THE IDITAROD TRAIL

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Brushkana musher Jessie Holmes shows his hand, still swollen days after punching a moose, while at the Ruby checkpoint on Friday. (Casey Grove / Alaska Public Media)

The front pack of this year's race remains as competitive as ever, now that most mushers have reached the Yukon River. Jessie Holmes left the checkpoint of Nulato for Kaltag this morning less than two hours after Travis Beals, the current leader, and both of them have taken their mandatory 8-hour Yukon River rests. 

 

Don't sleep on the other mushers, though: Dallas Seavey, who was the second musher to arrive in Nulato after Beals, left just a moment ago, fresh off his 8-hour rest. Matt Hall and Paige Drobny left before him, defending champion Ryan Redington appears to be on the move, and 2019 champ Pete Kaiser likely won't be far behind.

 

In Kaltag, the leaders will be greeted by sunshine, blue skies and temperatures currently hovering around zero degrees.

 

Back in Ruby, Alaska Public Media's Casey Grove caught up with a few of this year's leaders, who were preparing for cold conditions forecast along the Yukon River and the Norton Sound coast. 

 

At that point, Kaiser complimented Beals' team and their speed, but also noted: "We're only halfway in the race, and tons can happen."

 

 

Hunter Keefe — who's running his second Iditarod after reaching Nome last year in 11th place, capping off a childhood dream — had two reasons to be upbeat in Ruby. 

 

First off, he'd been jamming to an 18-hour playlist and finding creative ways to tie the songs to whatever he was doing (in this case, mushing, mushing and more mushing). Second, his dogs had a terrific appetite.

 

"I’ve never had a team this fat and eating this well, so that’s really cool and I’m really happy about that, and when you’ve got an appetite like that you can do a little bit more," he told APM.

 

 

 

Jessie Holmes took a moment to show how his hand was still swollen after he punched a moose in the nose early on in the race — apparently the same animal Seavey ended up killing and gutting after it attacked his team. 

 

“I didn’t like want to punch the moose in the nose, it was just a last ditch effort to not get stomped or to have any dogs get stomped,” Holmes told Alaska Public Media. “Dallas said, ‘I wished you had punched it harder.’”

 

Brushkana musher Jessie Holmes shows his hand, still swollen days after punching a moose, while at the Ruby checkpoint on Friday. (Casey Grove / Alaska Public Media)

 

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