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Royer Maintaining Lead to McGrath After Sass Surprised out of Nikolai

Brent Sass led first out of the Nikolai checkpoint this afternoon – a surprise after Aaron Burmeister, Richie Diehl, and Pete Kaiser were keeping top positions on the trail last night.

Sass spoke with KNOM trail reporter, Davis Hovey, about his plans when departing Nikolai this afternoon. Davis spoke via phone during the 2 p.m. KNOM Iditarod Update. Listen here:

As of KNOM’s 6 p.m. Iditarod Update, Jessie Royer and Richie Diehl had taken the lead and were running neck and neck between 8 and 9 mph, according to the GPS tracker.

Jessie Royer was third to leave Nikolai at 2:58 p.m. today, and looks to be (unofficially) still in the lead right now.

Teams at the front of the pack are on the way to McGrath – it’s a 48 mile trek from Nikolai. Further back, the current red lantern, Jim Lanier, is making the 35 mile trip from Rainy Pass to Rohn. 

No one has taken their 24 hour mandatory rest yet. Teams have been pushing fast and hard since the starting line in this year’s race, staying close together. McGrath has become a favorite for the 24-hour mandatory rest in the past few years. Camping in McGrath has its benefits: diesel-fired steam kettles, stores, and a laundromat with coin operated showers. Some top competitors may choose to rest before making the turn towards Porcupine Ridge and the Takotna checkpoint. 

Teams are spread between four checkpoints right now: McGrath, Nikolai, Rohn, and Rainy Pass. Jim Lanier was the last to depart Rainy Pass at 7:34 a.m. with a team of 14 dogs, but Rainy Pass was a bustling location yesterday.

In other trail news, musher Matthew Failor celebrated his 38th birthday today. He spoke with Davis Hovey in Nikolai. Listen here:

Tune in at 10 o’clock tomorrow morning to hear the latest on where mushers are and if anyone decides to start their 24-hour mandatory rest times.