NOME, Alaska -- Another former champion leapfrogged to the lead Monday in the 1,000-mile Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race.
Four-time winner Jeff King was first to cross the checkpoint in Koyuk at 8:17 a.m. The village is about 170 miles from the Iditarod’s finish line in Nome, the frontier town on Alaska’s wind-pummeled coast.
Front-runners began traveling north along the frozen Bering Sea Coast on Sunday. From the checkpoint in Koyuk, they now head west along the coastline to reach Nome.
King pulled left Koyuk just six minutes after arriving, then camped out for a while 8 miles from the checkpoint. His team began moving again late morning, according to positioning trackers attached to all the mushers’ sleds.
"You must be having fun," a local said as the 57-year-old veteran prepared to leave Koyuk.
"Does it show?" King said.
Mitch Seavey, the 2004 winner and father of defending champion Dallas Seavey, fed his team as King headed out.
The elder Seavey had been leading since Sunday and beat King to Koyuk by 34 minutes. The 53-year-old musher rested his team then left three hours and two minutes after King.
Third into Koyuk was last year’s runner-up, Aliy Zirkle, who clocked in at 9:28 a.m. Monday. She was followed one minute later by Ray Redington Jr., the grandson of race co-founder Joe Redington Sr., and she beat him out of the checkpoint by five minutes after a rest of nearly
Fourth into the checkpoint was Aaron Burmeister, who left nine minutes after Redington.
Dallas Seavey was eighth into Koyuk.
The race began March 2 with 66 teams at a ceremonial start in Anchorage. The competitive start began the following day in Willow and has since changed leaders several times. Those at the front of the field included four-time champions Lance Mackey and Martin Buser, who were running in 16th and 17th place, respectively, on Monday.
The first musher to reach Nome will win $50,400 and a new 2013 Dodge Ram pickup truck. The rest of the $600,000 purse will be split among the next 29 mushers to cross the finish line.
As teams push toward Nome, the town of 3,700 was bustling with anticipation.