March 11, 2008

Mushers into White Moutain

Photo: Lance Mackey
Lead mushers make it to White Mountain. The race will be over sometime early tomarow morning and unless his team goes on strike, which has happened to mushers that push to hard, Lance Mackey will repeat the feat of winning both the Yukon Quest and the Iditarod back to back. Mackey has been chased the last hundred miles by former champ Jeff King who is just an hour behind.
If Lance Mackey pulls off a victory, it may have been a little of that old Mackey magic — a recipe that includes a dash of mind games and a lot of old-fashioned hard work — that made the difference.
First, the head game:
Mackey lulled his rival, Jeff King, into parking his team at Elim. He then tip-toed out of the checkpoint at 2:20 a.m. after just an hour and 20 minutes rest, right as King shut his eyes for a nap. That was textbook Iditarod tricksterism. The move gained Mackey a one-hour advantage leaving that checkpoint. The hard work part came next, when the reigning Iditarod champion then called up his team and ski-poled for the next six and a half hours to maintain that advantage all the way to White Mountain...
King woke up, realized he’d been left behind and got his team moving at 3:10 a.m., after a rest of about two hours. The four-time champion assumed he’d gain on Mackey, since he had on all the runs up to this one, but he found out that Mackey still had a little more gas in the tank. “There’s no end yet in how many times I think I know something that’s not true,” King said, shortly before taking a snooze at White Mountain.
The two are parked this afternoon side by side, sleeping out their mandatory eight-hour layover, and will resume their duel to the finish line in Nome at 4:53 p.m. for Mackey and 5:50 p.m. for King. Mackey achieved a major advantage by pulling away. A difference of 57 minutes at this point is a commanding position to be in. Since both teams will be traveling fairly slowly, it’s mathematically difficult to expend enough energy to make up an hour, and then make a pass and hold on, with 77 miles to go. It can be done, and both mushers know it, but it will be tough for King...

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