Petit Out, Kaiser In

Mar 12, 2019

Musher Brett Bruggerman's dogs at the Unalakleet checkpoint.
Credit Zachariah Hughes

It’s a race, but a race without Nicolas Petit. Some thought the Iditarod was Petit’s race to lose this year, and he did just that. When his dogs refused to run on the Norton Sound ice it opened a door, which Bethel musher Pete Kaiser did not hesitate to run through. 

Petit, who scratched from the Iditarod last night, could only watch as Bethel’s Pete Kaiser took the lead and kept it, setting up a race to White Mountain Tuesday morning between his team and that of last year’s champion, the Norwegian musher Joar Leifseth Ulsom. 

The two are on the trail approaching White Mountain this morning, with Kaiser still in front and Leifseth Ulsom hot on his tail. Leifseth Ulsom’s team had the shortest time into Elim last night, but his dogs also had the shortest rest. The two mushers should be arriving in White Mountain before 9 a.m. on Tuesday. Once they get there, Kaiser and Leifseth Ulsom’s teams will have 8 hours to cool their heels, and paws, before they dash to Nome.

Jessie Royer is more than 20 miles behind them near the village of Golovin. Another pack of mushers is back farther on the trail, making their way to the Elim checkpoint. That includes Aliy Zirkle, Matt Hall, Mitch Seavey, Travis Beals, and Paige Drobny. Five more teams were in Koyuk, including Aniak musher Richie Diehl, who arrived at 5:18 a.m. Matthew Failor, this years winner of the K300, has fallen back to 17th in the standings and appears to be resting around the same place that Petit had to scratch.

Bethel Rookie Jessica Klejka made it to the coast and is resting in Unalakleet, while Victoria Hardwick is working her way up the Yukon River. Niklas Wikstrand scratched in Kaltag.