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Iditarod 2012: The Last Great Race roars through streets of Anchorage

Reigning Iditarod champion John Baker at the ceremonial start of the 2012 race.
Loren Holmes photo
Justin Sevedis' handler Laura Maresh quiets the team at the BLM finish of the 2012 Iditarod ceremonial start in Anchorage on Saturday. The dogs were howling as they watched other dog teams still mushing.
Loren Holmes photo
Spectators at Goose Lake watch musher Josh Cadzow during the ceremonial start in Anchorage.
Loren Holmes photo
Musher Bruce Linton starts down the hill at Cordova and 15th during the 2012 Iditarod ceremonial start.
Loren Holmes photo
Hugh Neff's license plate at the Anchorage start of the 2012 Iditarod.
Loren Holmes photo
Jeff King discusses how to line out the team with one of his handlers on Saturday.
Loren Holmes photo
Kelly Maixner and his team race down Fourth Avenue during the ceremonial start in Anchorage.
Loren Holmes photo
Iditarod officials check the microchips in Ryne Olson's team.
Loren Holmes photo
Musher Curt Perano, of Queenstown, New Zealand, at Saturday's Iditarod ceremonial race.
Loren Holmes photo
Anjanette Steer's team and her son Clayton, 6, at the 2012 Iditarod ceremonial start on Saturday, March 3.
Loren Holmes photo
Five time winner Rick Swenson mushes past fans near University Lake during the ceremonial start of the 2012 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race.
Loren Holmes photo
DeeDee Jonrowe at the ceremonial start of the 2012 race.
Loren Holmes photo
Michelle Phillips and her team round the corner at 4th Ave and Cordova St during the ceremonial start of the 2012 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race.
Loren Holmes photo
Sonny Lindner passes near the Alaska Native Medical Center on Saturday.
Loren Holmes photo
Jake Berkowitz' team crosses 5th Avenue during the ceremonial start of the 2012 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race.
Loren Holmes photo
Scott Janssen's team heads down the hill at Cordova St and 15th Ave during the ceremonial start of the 2012 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race.
Loren Holmes photo
Karen Ramstead and her team crossing a bridge over Northern Lights Blvd during the ceremonial start of the 2012 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race.
Loren Holmes photo
Justin Savidis' dogs at the end of the ceremonial start, howling at other dogs still mushing.
Loren Holmes photo
Matt Giblin and his team mushing along Campbell Airstip near the finish of the 2012 ceremonial start.
Loren Holmes photo
Matt Failor, bearing the flag of his native Ohio, mushes along Campbell Airstrip near the finish of the ceremonial start.
Loren Holmes photo
Silvia Furtwängler hugs one of her dogs before the ceremonial start of the 2012 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race.
Loren Holmes photo
Iditarod officials check the microchips in Ryne Olson's team.
Loren Holmes photo
Four time champion Martin Buser signs autographs before the ceremonial start of the 2012 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race.
Loren Holmes photo
Anjanette Steer's team and her son Clayton, 6, at the 2012 Iditarod ceremonial start on Saturday, March 3.
Loren Holmes photo
Four time champion Jeff King, who came out of retirement this year to attempt a fifth win, harnesses his dogs before the ceremonial start of the 2012 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race.
Loren Holmes photo
Wade Marrs, wearing a kilt, receives encouragement from mushing legend Emmitt Peters, at left, before the ceremonial start of the 2012 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race.
Loren Holmes photo
Nicolas Petit's team before the ceremonial start of the 2012 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race.
Loren Holmes photo
Trent Herbst mushes his team down 4th Avenue during the ceremonial start of the 2012 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race.
Loren Holmes photo
Four time champion Lance Mackey during the ceremonial start of the 2012 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race.
Loren Holmes photo
Kelley Griffin mushes along 4th Avenue during the ceremonial start of the 2012 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race. Thousands of race fans came out to cheer on the mushers.
Loren Holmes photo
Norwegian Sigrid Ekran mushes past Kami Harris, waving the Norwegian flag, during the ceremonial start of the 2012 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race.
Loren Holmes photo
Loren Holmes,Ben Anderson

 


2012 Iditarod Coverage

It was fitting that during a winter in which many Alaska communities have been pounded with deeper-than-normal snowfall, the 66 mushers competing in the 2012 Iditarod rolled through downtown Anchorage on Saturday as snow fell lightly on the exuberant crowd lining Fourth Avenue.

This year’s Iditarod kicked off with the traditional -- and just for show -- ceremonial start through the streets of downtown Anchorage, a crowd-friendly precursor to the race’s true restart in Willow the next day. As usual, the mushers had a little fun with the event, as the pressure to compete had one last vacation day.

Far back from the official start line, dogs already tied to harnesses tugged against them, howling and yelping and anxious to get started. A race organizer shooed bystanders from the center of the street as teams made their way to the starting line.

"They need a tunnel of light to see where they're going!" he shouted. "These are country dogs, not city dogs!" 

This year’s trail will likely be a different beast than last, when Kotzebue resident and Alaska Native John Bakerwon the race in a record time of 8 days, 18 hours and 46 minutes -- four hours faster than the previous record set by Martin Buser. Baker mushed smart, but warm, clear weather for much of the race made for a fast trail for those in the lead -- and an occasional quagmire for those bringing up the rear. This year’s trail looks good in terms of snow, but a heavy weather pattern like the ones that have peppered the state this winter could throw a curveball into some mushers’ strategies.

All eyes on Hugh Neff

Musher Hugh Neff, who last month won the grueling, 1,000 mile Alaska-Canada Yukon Quest race, is competing again in this year's Iditarod. Many of Neff's dogs are Iditarod veterans, and if he won, it wouldn't be the first time someone's won the Quest and Iditarod in the same year.

Still, Neff said, "I don't care if I win." Instead, he said its about educating people about dog mushing and the sport itself. "We're always looking to stay enlightened."

But, as always, it’s anyone’s race.

Baker is back and wearing the number 11 bib, the tenth official musher out of the start line. Lance Mackey, who stumbled last year in his quest to win five straight titles and tie Rick Swenson for the all-time win number, returns with a young team that some believe he can steer to victory. Swenson himself, now 61, is back, as is last year’s second-place finisher Ramey Smyth.

As usual, the Iditarod field is full of young upstarts and grizzled veterans, topped off with a heavy dose of tradition. Sounds a bit like Alaska.