ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) – Traveling through rugged, unforgiving Alaska terrain is hard to come by, but what used to be the race of the world’s most famous sled dogs will be considered this year because of the epidemic.
In years past, the Mushers stopped at any of the 24 villages that served as checkpoints where they could get hot food, perhaps a shower, or even a “cheek shake” in a warm building until almost 1,000 returned. -mile (1,609 km) Iditarod Trail Sled dog race. When the race starts on Sunday north of Anchorage, they will spend the next week mostly in tents outside the cities, միակ the only source of heat for comfort or heating frozen food and water will be their camp boilers.
“It’s a little old school,” said Rob Urbach, CEO of Iditarod.
This year’s Iditarod will be marked by epidemic warnings, a change of route, an absence of spectators, the smallest field of rivals in recent decades, the return of a former champion, a fan swan song, all under pressure from the race, and animal rights sponsors.
The most noticeable change this year will be the lack of spectators. The crowd-pleasing start for thousands of people in downtown Anchorage has been canceled, and the actual start of the Willow race has been moved to a 7-mile (11-kilometer) boat port to help reduce the number of fans. I usually take part in the start of the race off the main highway. Urbach encourages fans to watch the start: end: of the race on TV or on the internet.
The route was also reduced to 860 miles (1,384 kilometers). For the first time in the 49-year history of the race, the finish line will not be in Nome.
Instead, the collectors will travel from Willow to the mining ghost towns of Iditarod և Flat, and then return to Willow for completion. Urbach notes that this was the original vision of the late co-founder of the tribe, the late Readington.
Howard Farley of Nome, 88, remembers it well. He disagreed with it in the early 1970s, when Readington proposed it, and he now opposes it.
He said he told Redington in 1973 before the first Iditarod. “There is no one in Iditarod. It is a ghost town. There is no one to give shore. I said. “Just bring it Nome.”
He said Iditarod could կարող easily և safely finish Nome this year.
“It just saddens me that all our work, all our prayers over the years, have achieved that,” Farley said.
As the collectors will have to return twice to finish Willow, they will cross the Alaska Range twice. Muschers will have to navigate the dangerous Daltzel Gorge և Happy River Stairs or a series of steep detours that periodically leave competitors with bruises նակ sleighs broken.
In an effort to prevent the virus from spreading, Iditarod will bypass most communities to prevent any transmission, leaving hunters to sleep in tents specially designed for Alaska’s harsh weather or under stars at temperatures below zero.
Urbach had challenges at every turn as he tried to pull out a second Iditarod during the coronavirus epidemic. The virus spread to the United States in the middle of last year’s race, one of several major sporting events that was not canceled in March 2020 when they learned to fly to deal with the epidemic.
This year they had more time to prepare. Musketeers will undergo rigorous testing; anyone who passes a positive COVID-19 test before the start of the competition is not eligible to participate. Additional testing and monitoring will take place on the trail. Any fisherman who takes a positive test during the race will be removed and isolated.
Defending champion Thomas Wahner is not racing, telling the Associated Press it was “impossible to plan ahead” during the epidemic. Last year, he left his dogs in Alaska for months due to travel restrictions after his victory. They moved it to Norway only after they flew over the plane from Anchorage to its new home in one of Oslo’s museums.
The race will start with 47 runners, the smallest field in decades. This year’s stadium includes four former champions, including two four-time winners: Martin Buser and Dallas Sivi. Buser last won in 2002. Sivi has won four titles in five years, culminating in her last championship in 2016.
Sivi last competed with Iditarod when he was second in 2017, when Iditarod officials said four of his dogs had tested positive for the banned opioid analgesic. He categorically denied giving his dogs painkillers. The following year, Iditarod overturned its decision to oust Sivi, but he took his dogs to Norway to compete instead.
At just 34, Sivi is considered by many to be one day և perhaps surpassing Rick Swanson, the race’s most decorated rock star, who won five championships between 1977 and 1991.
“Five would be great,” Sivi said. “I will do my best to win this. “If I am beaten, which is a very probable result, whoever hits me will earn it.”
As Sivi returns, one of the sport’s most beloved athletes bows down after this year’s race. Ali irk Irk, 50, announced on his website last month that it was time to retire. Since 2002, Irk has finished in the top 10 seven times, and since 2012 has been in second place for three years in a row. He never won.
The individual prize for the World Championship sled dog race has not been determined. To win last year’s race, Vaerner raised about $ 50,000 և a new Dodge pickup. However, Chrysler, through its Anchorage dealer office, refused to sponsor Iditarod after that race.
Animal rights groups Animal rights groups are pressuring national sponsors to apply for an ExxonMobil loan, announcing that it will end its sponsorship after this year’s race.
PETA claims the race is cruel to dogs and says more than 150 people died during the first race in 1973. Iditarod disputes that number, but did not provide its calculation to the Associated Press, despite numerous requests over the years.
“PETA makes it absolutely a challenge,” Urbach said.
He said PETA was “inflammatory-grossly inaccurate” in their approach, but acknowledged that it was creating difficult dynamics for the race.
However, Urbach said they are trying to change history by continuing to promote dog health, nutrition, training and breeding on its website.
Iditarod has had two financial hits this year. The fundraiser was canceled due to the epidemic,, they spent thousands of dollars on personal protective equipment անձնական COVID-19 tests. They also reduced the entrance fee by half, reducing the total prize wallet by $ 20,000 to $ 400,000.