ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) — A father and son are battling for the lead in Alaska’s Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race.
Mitch Seavey, a two-time Iditarod champion, was the first musher out of the checkpoint in the village of Kaltag on Sunday, leaving at 4:40 a.m. Dallas Seavey departed five minutes later.
The Iditarod crosses nearly 1,000 miles of grueling Alaska wilderness.
Dallas Seavey has won four of the past five races. He is a third generation musher who grew up helping his dad train his racing teams, according to the Iditarod’s website.
The father and son are close, but also competitive. Mitch Seavey finished in second place behind Dallas the past two years.
The third competitor out of Kaltag on Sunday was veteran musher Wade Marrs of Alaska, who left at 5:28 a.m.
Next was Nicolas Petit, a native of France who lives just south of Anchorage. Petit departed at 6:35 a.m.
Rounding out the top five was Joar Leifseth Ulsom of Norway, who left Kaltag at 6:50 a.m.
This year’s race started March 6 in Fairbanks. The winner is expected early this week in the town of Nome, along Alaska’s frozen Bering Sea coast.
Mushers begin the race with teams of 12 to 16 dogs, and must have at least five on the towline at the finish line.
Mitch and Dallas Seavey each arrived at Kaltag with 13 dogs and left with 12.
The Kaltag checkpoint offers a brief respite before the trail heads overland to the wind-whipped coast of Norton Sound, the race website says.