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Team Baker Iditarod Reports

Updates on Team Baker during the 2014-2016 Iditarod Sled Dog Race from Myron Angstman.

Quite the Battle at a Record Pace

Ashley Kelly

This morning  it was suggested that by tonight  it would be possible to select three contenders, so here goes.   Earlier  I picked five  likely contenders  when the teams were around Ruby.  Two of those have faded.  Robert Sorlie has lost speed and dropped  back,  and is  likely out of contention.   Martin Buser is  still in second, but his traveling speed is such that he isn’t likely  to be able to keep up  with the three faster teams  now running near him.   The three remaining teams,  Aily Zirkle, Sonny Lindner  and  Jeff King should  battle it out for the win.  And it could be quite a battle.

Zirkle is in the lead.   She has had some great runs to get where she is  and will not surrender the lead easily.  She uses ski poles most of the time, and   has had excellent speed.   Lindner is second and has the slowest average speed of the three,  but has had a couple longer runs without a break.  That tactic  becomes significant  from now on, as breaks become less possible. King has taken more breaks, but is moving the fastest of the three most of the time. The fact that both  Lindner and King took their 24  hour break  at Ruby  is significant in figuring traveling speed.  The posted speed is based on the entire race, and it appears that both teams have had a better speed compared to  Zirkle since  Ruby, although those precise numbers  are not posted.

Zirkle left  Unalakleet after a four  hour break this evening.   Teams trying to win sometimes go direct to Koyuk  without a stop in Shaktoolik.  I don’t expect  Zirkle to do that yet.  Seasoned  race watchers  have suggested to me she likes to take a break every six hours or so, and likely will keep that up as  long as she is ahead.  Lindner would be more likely  to use that option to  erase  the  lead  Zirkle now has. King has also been breaking regularly, as he did last year after passing through Koyuk, in a move that enabled Mitch  Seavey to pass him and win.

I have a set of eyes on the ground in  Unalakleet,  Andy Angstman,  who is reporting what he sees.  He has contributed to the  naming of the three likely contenders, based on watching the teams arrive.  I also had  a chance to chat with five time champion Rick Swenson, who helped  Lindner prepare for the race. Swenson of course knows more about racing the Iditarod than anyone, and he also helped me  make my picks.  Swenson reported that despite his age (64) Lindner is a master at going without sleep.  There will likely be no sleep from  now until White Mountain, and that is often a factor in deciding who wins.

A team that was moving fast  in recent runs experienced  difficulty  just before reaching Unalakleet and scratched.  Nic Petit was running in third place at the time. He had trouble at the spot where Jeff King’s team faltered in another recent  Iditarod after a strong run.  John Baker left Kaltag tonight  in 18th place, and Katherine Keith arrived in Nulato this afternoon in 30th place.  She has  fallen well behind the top rookie Abbie West who left  Kaltag in 16th place.

If there are  three teams still in the running tomorrow evening it will be unusual.  Most often there are one or two teams  out of reach of their challengers  by the time the front of the race reaches Elim.  The race is on record pace, and there seems  little reason to expect that will change.  The record, of course, belongs  to John Baker.