March 19, 2009

Iditarod 2009: Mackey Wins His Third Straight Race

Lance Mackey joined an elite pair of mushers yesterday when he crossed under the burled arch in Nome to claim his third consecutive Iditarod victory. As I mentioned in an earlier post only Doug Swingley and Susan Butcher have ever pulled that off and each retired their favorite lead dog after the third win and was never quite as dominant again.
Mackey discusses this years team and its leaders:

"This race was really smooth as far as the performance level of the dogs,'' he said. "I've never had a team work together like this before."
At the front, Mackey said, he often had a 3-year-old named Maple pacing the way, but the strength of the team remained former golden-harness winner Larry. When the team had trouble getting out of Golovin on the run to White Mountain, Mackey
moved Larry to the front and off they went. When Maple got confused by the crowd on Front Street and wandered off the trail, Mackey brought Larry to the front to help guide her in.
"I love that dog,'' he said, adding that Larry is now headed for retirement.
"Even if he wants to do another, I'm not going to let him,'' Mackey said. "He's run in all eight of my Iditarods. The year I didn't run in '03, he was in (friend Paul) Gebhardt's team."
Mackey actually thought about leaving Larry home this year. He wasn't sure the 9-year-old dog was up to another 1,000-mile run, but at the end there was Larry, pulling as hard as ever coming into town and wagging his tail at the finish.
"Larry knows I need him only for certain times,'' Mackey said. "But he's pulled all sorts of boner moves (this year). It's a good indication he's had enough."
Whether the Mackey dynasty can survive Larry's departure remains to be seen. Swenson was never the same after Andy retired. Butcher was never the same after Granite retired. Alaska Sports Hall of Fame musher George Attla, one of the greatest dog drivers of all time, has long said if a musher gets one great lead dog in a lifetime,
he's been blessed.

Read the whole thing here.

Best wishes to Mackey and all the musher that are still on the trail. As always the mushers, the dogs, the magnificent scenery, and the brutal weather combined to make a story that only Alaska can supply.

A few final shots of Lance in Nome.

In the winners circle with his leaders Maple and Larry

Coming down Front Street in Nome

Lance on the phone with his father Dick, winner of the 1974 race.
The PETA Corner:
Obviously I love this race and what it represents as much as the PETA organization despises it,
but I want to thank them for being such good sports as we had a little fur fun at their expense.

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