WILLOW, Alaska (AP) — Joar Leifseth Ulsom may not be flashy or brash, but he has sled cred.
The quiet, unassuming 32-year-old defending champion of the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race leads the field of 52 mushers hoping to be the first to reach Alaska’s western coast after a thousand-mile (1,600-kilometer) trek across the Alaska wilderness.
The lineup includes four Canadians, two Norwegians including Ulsom and one musher each from Sweden and France.
That quest officially begins Sunday as the mushers take off from a frozen lake about 50 miles (80 kilometers) north of Anchorage.
The winner is expected in Nome, an old Gold Rush town on Alaska’s Bering Sea coast, in about nine days.