When Martin Buser arrived into the Rohn checkpoint – at 9:53am Monday morning – he was bringing to fruition a plan that has had many Iditarod observers and fellow mushers scratching their heads.
The four-time champion (alongside fellow musher Matt Failor) rocketed through Iditarod’s early checkpoints (Yentna, Skwentna, Finger Lake, Rainy Pass) before settling down in Rohn, well out in front, to take his mandatory 24-hour layover.
The race rules stipulate that all mushers must rest their team for a full day at one checkpoint (musher’s choice), but typically, few mushers choose a checkpoint as early as Rohn – and few choose to halt their teams with so many of the Iditarod trail’s 1,000 miles still to go.
But listening to the interview (below) with KNOM’s Laureli Kinneen, one imagines the longtime Iditarod veteran is keeping a trick or two up his sleeve; Buser says that taking his 24 early, in Rohn, has been part of his strategy all along – a strategy that he was adamant about keeping relatively secret. What remains to be seen is whether that strategy works.
“It’s maybe shaping up to be one of my years,” Buser says. “(It’s my) hope that, when we leave here, it’s like a new race.”
Just how the race will be made “new” will depend, of course, on the many days of mushing still to come, but if Buser’s gambit works, the reverberations for later Iditarods could be profound. As the Anchorage Daily News’ Kyle Hopkins notes, some of this year’s competitors are wondering how a Buser victory could change the strategy that mushers take into the race. “If he somehow held on to win, they said, it could change the way people race the Iditarod.”
As of 11am Tuesday morning, the official Iditarod standings have yet to report Martin Buser out of the Rohn checkpoint, even though he would have been eligible to depart more than an hour ago. Iditarod’s GPS tracker seems to confirm that Buser (alongside Matt Failor) has yet to leave Rohn.
Correction: Martin Buser will be eligible to depart Rohn at approximately 12noon Tuesday; his 24-hour layover is appended with slightly more than 2 hours to compensate for his starting differential from Willow on Sunday afternoon.
Buser was the first to leave Willow, at 2:00pm Sunday, placing him 2 hours 10 minutes ahead of the last musher to leave willow, Sonny Lindner. So, while Buser’s 24 hours ended at 9:53am this morning, he won’t be eligible to depart until 2 hours 10 minutes later: 12:03pm, Tuesday.