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Fielder Holds Lead at Idiatrod

March 6, 2002

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OPHIR, Alaska (AP) _ Linwood Fiedler led the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race teams out of Ophir on Wednesday, leaving just a minute after his 7:35 a.m. arrival.

Ramy Brooks also wasted no time in Ophir, which is 669 miles from the Nome finish. He arrived in Ophir at 9:02 a.m. and rolled out 10 minutes later.

Martin Buser, a three-time Iditarod winner, checked into Ophir at 5:52 a.m. but hadn’t left by late Monday morning.

At this point in the 1,100-mile race, however, it’s difficult to tell who is actually in the lead because the mushers begin taking their mandatory 24-hour layovers. That means the mushers up front aren’t necessarily in the lead if they haven’t taken the long break.

Fiedler, last year’s runner-up, was the first to leave the Takotna checkpoint Wednesday morning, departing at 5:05 a.m. for Ophir 25 miles up the trail.

Following closely was John Baker, who left Takotna at 6:35 a.m. and checked into Ophir at 9:04 a.m. Brooks left Takotna at 6:41 a.m., trailed by DeeDee Jonrowe at 6:50 a.m.

Defending Iditarod champion Doug Swingley remained among the laggers. Swingley, a four-time champion who won the last three Iditarods, announced Tuesday he is running a noncompetitive race instead of seeking an unprecedented fourth straight win.

Swingley was in 48th place Wednesday morning, departing from the Rohn checkpoint at 7:37 a.m. after a 12 1/2-hour rest. Next stop for Swingley was Nikolai 80 miles away.

A winner is expected to cross the finish line in Nome sometime Tuesday. But with unusually good trail conditions, some mushers say, the race record of nine days, 58 minutes, set by Swingley in 2000 could be broken.

The winner will take home the top prize of nearly $63,000 and a new pickup truck. The top 30 finishers will share a $550,000 purse.

Sixty-two of 64 teams that began the 30th running of the Iditarod remained on the trail. Burt Bomhoff and Perry Solomonson have scratched.

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