Strategies are now being revealed and the coast is where we will see this race determined.

With a stop at the new Old Woman cabin, it looks like Mitch Seavey is redirecting his attention to preserving a third-place finish. After a three to four hour break, he will push through to Unalakleet where he will very likely rest again.

A move like this preserves speed and the hope he can outrun his nearest competitors. This doesn’t eliminate the possibility of a push to the front -- if the weather turns or a mishap strikes both Nic Petit and Joar Leifseth Ulsom.

He won’t be able to rest on his laurels either, as a hungry pack of mushers are right on his tail and will try their best to reel him in and ruin his plans of that third place. Currently, the odds are not strong for the Seavey family dynasty to maintain their chokehold on this race.

While Mitch began his rest at Old Woman, Joar pushed ahead and stopped just 22 miles before Unalakleet. This move sets him up for a run straight through Unalakleet and on to Shaktoolik. Doing so will catapult him into the lead if Nic spends any length of time.

While Joar and Mitch chose to camp on the trail, Nic continued his push to the checkpoint for his rest and yet another trail award for being the first to the coast. Getting into Unalakleet first will also give Nic the chance to size up Joar’s team as they check in and immediately check out. This is a prime opportunity to strategize further and decide if he will keep to his current game plan, or try to put in a monster run to leap in front of Joar, banking on the opportunity to bounce back after a mandatory 8-hour rest in White Mountain.

From Unalakleet, it is only about 260 miles to the finish, but don’t be mistaken, those miles won’t be easy. The teams are trail hardened by this point in the race and the dogs remaining on the team are generally the best in each teams kennel. But as I’ve mentioned in prior blogs, the coastal storms can cause havoc on race standings. At this point, it looks like partially cloudy weather and 10-20 degrees through the day. That’s not ideal mushing weather, but much better than a ground blizzard and new snow.

We’ve got a real race on our hands. With this move by Joar, there is a distinct possibility of our race championship leaving the states for the first time since 2005. Ironically enough, Dallas Seavey has charged ahead in the Finnmarkslopet in Norway and may bring that race championship back home to the United States.

This is a dog race, and currently, the best looking team has been run by the Frenchman. Unless someone can find a way to out-strategize Nitro Nic, this race will be his.

Bryan Bearss trained Iditarod race teams full time from 2003 to 2009 and raced the Iditarod in 2006 and 2015. He is currently an elementary school teacher and marathon canoe racer. 

Opinions expressed are those of the author and not of KTVA 11 News.   

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