NOME, Alaska (AP) - Make it three Iditarods in a row for Lance Mackey.
The musher from Fairbanks won the 1,100-mile trek across the wilderness Wednesday in the world's most famous sled dog race. And
it wasn't even close.
Mackey slapped hands with fans along Nome's Front Street and was
mobbed by family members after crossing under the city's famed burled arch at 11:38 a.m., hours ahead of his nearest competitors.
Immediatley after winning, he gave treats to his dogs.
"This never gets old," he said at the finish line, hugging two of his dogs.
"It's pretty awesome," he added. "Pretty cool."
He commended his "little superstar Maple," a 3-year-old female who was in the lead for much of the last part of the race.
Mackey was about six hours ahead of the second- and third-place
mushers, Sebastian Schnuelle of Canada and John Baker of Kotzebue.
He increased his lead along the wind-swept western coast of Alaska.
Fierce, biting winds blew in off the Bering Sea, forcing temperatures to 50 below zero. Many mushers waited out the storm in checkpoints farther back.
Mackey became the third musher in the race's 37-year history to win in three consecutive years, joining Susan Butcher (1986-88) and Doug Swingley (1999-01).
In Mackey's two previous victories, he headed into the Iditarod about two weeks after winning the 1,000-mile Yukon Quest International Sled Dog Race, considered to a tougher race than the Alaska comptition.
Mackey didn't run the Yukon Quest this year, choosing instead to train an Alaska Native musher for the Iditarod.
Sixty-seven teams began the race more than a week ago in Willow,
about 50 miles north of Anchorage. Ten teams have either scratched
or been withdrawn.
Three dogs have died in this year's race. The dogs were on the team of rookie Lou Packer of Wasilla, who scratched after he was found Monday 22 miles past the Iditarod checkpoint by searchers in a plane. He told the Anchorage Daily News he believes the two dogs froze to death in the high winds.