Nicolas Petit was the first musher to arrive back in Ambler Friday evening, extending his lead over the rest of the pack.
KNOM’s Gabe Colombo was on the scene:
The warm, sunny Ambler checkpoint was lively as Petit pulled in with an energetic dog team at around 6:15. He steered his 11 dogs to a shady spot where their straw pads were still on the ground from earlier in the day.
The French-born Girdwood musher was all business as he got to work feeding his dogs, but he wasn’t disappointed with his time.
“Hard to complain with the way things were going.”
Petit completed the 74 miles to the Kobuk halfway point and back to Ambler at a quick pace of around 10 miles per hour. After long stretches of trail, he says, the turnaround leg has an added benefit, too.
“I like these checkpoints down there because they’re good training for the dogs to not stay at a checkpoint. Going to three checkpoints in 60 miles is pretty cool for them.”
Things were not so cool for 2017 Kobuk 440 champion Jessie Holmes. He scratched here not long after Petit arrived. Holmes had the lead at the beginning of the race, but:
“Went way too hard, way too fast. Somehow Nic can do that, and just keep going with it, and that’s impressive and amazing. It’s kinda been a good year for me. I don’t really need to push it unless I tried really hard, race to win.”
Veteran Chuck Shaeffer of Kotzebue also didn’t want to push too hard, scratching around the same time as Holmes. Shaeffer says leg cramps are what did him in:
“I figured this will be a good time to hang up the middle-distance scene, get into something a little different, maybe, or just have dogs for my own use, forget about racing for a while.”
Shaeffer and Holmes are hoping to mush back to Kiana together on Saturday.
All 14 remaining mushers have at least arrived into Ambler for their first pass. Eight have headed on. Ellen King, Clara Kneringer and Tony Browning are due to arrive back in Ambler before midnight.
Nicolas Petit after pulling into the Ambler checkpoint for the second time on the 2018 Kobuk 440 trail (Photo: Gabe Colombo, KNOM).