Like a white flag waving in the coastal winds, Nic Petit pulled into the Elim checkpoint decked out head to toe in his snow-white wind suit 47 minutes behind Joar Leifseth Ulsom.

When Nic asked about Joar at the checkpoint and heard he continued without stopping, he curtly replied: “Congratulations to him."

This sounds like a pretty good concession speech from a man who looked to have taken control of the Last Great Race on the Yukon River.

To be taken in consideration, these are also words from a man who left Shaktoolik with over a three-hour lead, only to see that lead be wiped away by the same blowing winds of the Bering Sea that wiped away what remained of trail markers and snowmachine tracks leading to Koyuk.

Nic has to be absolutely exhausted, just like the other mushers in this race who have been battered and beaten by the trials of the trail that Old Man Winter and Mother Nature have conspired to conjure.

I cannot stress enough how difficult this stretch of trail can be. The winds are relentless, creating drifts that must be summited or traversed. Dogs are constantly weaving in and out, making a straight line of travel into a very circuitous route. Trail markers often litter this section of trail as the wind rips them from their icy purchase leaving mushers a scant hint on where to go. Nic was heard complaining about this in Koyuk, but like all mushers, he knows this is the reality of this section of trail.

While Nic has made his short concession speech, Joar has eschewed rest in Elim and charged ahead. With a fair amount of certainty, Joar will not be stopping for long on the run to Elim -- indicated by the scant amount of food he grabbed from his food drops and more telling the lack of straw.   

This is a move that has helped catapult many mushers ahead in the final standings, banking on the 8-hour rest in White Mountain being enough to recover and continue their push to Nome. This move may be the move of the race -- extending a 47 minute lead in Elim into a three-hour advantage.

As the Viking storms the Iditarod toward victory, Dallas Seavey has invaded Norway with the gusto of the mighty Thor. There is not much to question on who is in charge of the Finnmarkslopet. Norwegians have warmly welcomed Dallas to their country’s premier distance dog sled race, cheering him on like a world famous rock star.

I won’t have a chance to get to Nome this year, but If Joar does continue his steady march to victory, I hope we can show him the same level of support and raise a raucous cheer as his team crosses the burled arch.

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.    

Copyright 2018 KTVA. All rights reserved. 

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