By March 9 of next year, mushers in the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race will begin closing in on Nome. Four-time champion Dallas Seavey won't be anywhere nearby, though -- he'll be in Norway.

Seavey announced Thursday that he'll compete in the roughly 750-mile-long Finnmarksløpet, Norway's answer to the long-distance races of North America.

In recent years the 1,000-mile-long Iditarod and Yukon Quest have both taken on a more international flavor. This year, New Zealand, Switzerland, and Germany are represented among the 26 mushers signed up for the Quest.

In a Facebook video posted by Finnmarksløpet accompanying the decision, Seavey appears with one of his dogs to discuss the move.

“We’re joining everybody in Norway for Finnmarksløpet and we’re very excited to get over there,” Seavey said. “It’s something that’s been on our to-do list for a long time; I’ve always wanted to race over there, it’s held a certain amount of allure to me.”

For many European mushers the Finnmarksløpet has represented one of the last big tests for themselves and their teams before coming to Alaska to take on the Iditarod, which runs about 250 miles longer.

The Iditarod has become a favorite race for many Scandinavians. Last year four Norwegians and one Swede were entered. In 2016, eight mushers from Norway signed up; they all made it to Nome, with three finishing in the top 13.

Robert Sorlie is a perfect example of a musher whose roots began with the Finnmarksløpet. The Oslo airport firefighter won it in 1995, 1999, and 2001. Deciding he needed another challenge, he came to the Iditarod in 2002 placing ninth, earning rookie-of-the-year honors. He then won The Last Great Race twice in the next three years, a remarkable feat which cemented his status as one of the greats on the trail -- but he didn't come to Alaska until after the Finnmarksløpet.

Seavey’s switch from The Last Great Race comes after the Iditarod Trail Committee announced earlier this year that dogs from an unnamed musher’s team in the 2017 race tested positive for the opioid pain reliever Tramadol. ITC officials named Seavey as the musher in October, after the Iditarod Official Finisher’s Club demanded his identity be released.

Seavey fiercely denied any suggestion that he had doped his dogs, noting in a YouTube statement that his dogs’ food bags were distributed to checkpoints weeks before the race and that his team “may have been sabotaged.” He also decided not to participate in the 2018 Iditarod, saying that “I’m not going to race under this leadership.”

Seavey will arrive in Norway several weeks before the March race, which takes place in the 10th week of each year. Its route begins and ends in the western city of Alta, looping east through much of the country.

Dave Goldman and Jason Sear contributed information to this story.

Copyright 2017 KTVA. All rights reserved.

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