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Who? and When?

text and photo by David Dodman; audio by David Dodman, Laureli Kinneen, and Linda Maack

Iditarod Trail Finish

On Monday night, the Iditarod finish line banners were in place on a very quiet Front Street. It won't be so quiet on Tuesday.

On the eve of the Iditarod finish, a lot of fervent race fans are asking themselves the same two questions: who’s going to win this race? And when will that happen?

For now, the first question is almost impossible to answer: even more so than just 24 hours ago.

John Baker’s once sizable lead from Sunday has shrunk to a 51-minute edge over Ramey Smyth, a musher known for making incredibly fast runs in the very end of the race. Smyth holds the record for the fastest time from the second-to-last checkpoint, Safety, to the finish line in Nome, and every year, Smyth and his mushing brother, Cim, make it a habit of showing just how fast they can be on those final 22 miles to Nome.

In past Iditarods, it’s been commonplace to see the Smyth brothers shave a full hour off their Safety-to-Nome runs, compared with other mushers. (They often make the run in 2 hours, rather than 3.) Again, less than an hour separates Smyth from Baker.

In short, the 2011 Iditarod finish could be a close one. Potentially, very close.

When it comes to the second question, however – when this race will finish – the answer is perhaps a little clearer.

Both John Baker and Ramey Smyth are, at time of writing, finishing up their mandatory 8-hour layovers in White Mountain. Baker will likely depart just after midnight, and Smyth just before 1am. KNOM typically estimates about 10 hours for the White Mountain to Nome run, and so, we could see an Iditarod championship finish sometime around 10am Tuesday. It could be a little later or even a little earlier, but 10am Tuesday is quite possible.

For more, listen to our on-air Iditarod Update from 8pm Monday night. David Dodman and Linda Maack are joined by Laureli Kinneen – just minutes after her return from the trail! – and talk about Baker’s and Smyth’s chances, what recent race statistics might suggest about Tuesday’s finish, and lots more: