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4-Time Champs in Nikolai: Buser and Mackey

audio by Laureli Kinneen; text by David Dodman

In this year’s Iditarod, there’s no shortage of superlatives for the trail conditions: so far, at least.

At the Nikolai checkpoint earlier today (Tuesday), four-time champions Martin Buser and Lance Mackey – respectively, the first and sixth mushers to arrive there – talked with KNOM trail reporter Laureli Kinneen about their Iditarod 2011 experiences.

Both mushers praised the trail: Mackey noted that 2011 is shaping up to be a “perfect snow year,” while Buser went perhaps even further, declaring this year’s trail “one of the best ever.”

But even if it’s one of the best, that doesn’t mean the trail – or Mackey’s or Buser’s run over it – has been without flaws.

Lance simultaneously described an exceptionally fast but also, in places, “pudgy” and “tight” trail, and he detailed how, by his departure from Rohn, he was forced to drop a dog – Maple, his leader – that was having problems that neither Mackey nor Iditarod’s veterinarians could fully explain. (By the time of his interview below, Mackey had also decided to drop three more dogs in Nikolai.) Mackey also talked about the differences he’s noticed between the older and newer members of his dog team, as well as some of the “adrenaline rush moments” in the race to Nikolai:

Martin Buser, meanwhile, was first into Nikolai: a feat he accomplished despite a few “snafus” earlier on the trail. In his talk with KNOM’s Laureli Kinneen, Buser described the experience of losing – and then finding – five of his sled dogs, as well as the, ahem, complications of canine romance on the trail:

As of 10:15pm Tuesday night, Martin Buser and Lance Mackey were both into Takotna: Buser first at 8:16pm with 15 dogs, followed by Lance Mackey at 9:58pm with 12.