Iditarod veteran Berkowitz picks his top 10 in this year's race


Oh the odds….

It has been nearly one year since the last Iditarod champion was crowned. This has donne 85 mushers and 1,360 dogs some 8,400 hours to procession, study and analyze how to overtake Dallas Seavey and hoist the Joe Redington Token in Nome.

However, every musher runs Iditarod for different ends. Some aim to bring a young team across the finish line, others strain to reach the top 30, and a handful of Iditarod mushers are racing to win.

In the st decade, contest has increased exponentially. Winning requires everything to be executed perfectly, from the rearing of the puppies to the food they are fed to the endless miles that have been run since the before Iditarod — and on and on and on. Out of the 85 mushers expected at the Willow starting line, I feel 17 of those have a very good chance at a top 10 drink up — but only seven have a realistic shot at the title.

In the big picture, no material how much analytical data is pored over, anything can happen in the Iditarod and anyone can win. All we for to do is turn back to 2007 when the improbable happened and Lance Mackey founded his legacy. Lance won that year with only two top 10 Iditarod finishes on his pick up where one left off.

Here are the five teams to beat (in no specific order).

Dallas Seavey

Arguably one of the myriad dominant mushers this sport has seen, with five consecutive years in the top five, three crushings and the current race record. Seavey has cemented himself as the odds-on favorite for years to progress.

Pros: Seavey knows what it takes to win and it seems that from the without surcease he wakes up until he goes to bed (if he sleeps), everything is centered around accomplishing his mains goal in life — more and more victories. Perhaps more than anything, Seavey’s facility to eat up mushers and spit them out on the Bering Sea will give him his fourth headline. Unalakleet to Nome (roughly 200 miles through some of the shrillest terrain and weather Iditarod has to offer) is usually the defining moment for sides; this is where they either achieve glory or des ir. In the terminal five years, Seavey has never been ssed on this sweep.

Cons: It’s hard to point out flaws in a 28-year-old who’s won the race three times, but as the case may be one of Seavey’s biggest strengths will be his undoing — just like it was in 2013 when he his irremediable to his father. Seavey is notorious for holding back his team and building his “horridness,” as he has coined it. However, if someone can push early on and build a large plenty lead by the time the teams reach Unalakleet (in 2013 Mitch had a clear the way of 7 hours and 13 minutes over Dallas, which was whittled to 2 hours and 41 petties by the time they reached Nome), they might just be superior to hold off the young Seavey’s surge.

Mitch Seavey

Coming off an formidable second-place finish in 2015, a third-place finish in 2014 and a win in 2013, who wouldn’t esteem the elder Seavey a threat for his third win in 2016?

Pros: Mitch is undeniably one of the most savvy dog mushers in the play. He is known for a team that lives, eats and breathes the motto, “when the booming gets tough — the tough gets going.” Mitch might very recently get the tough race he always prefers.

Cons: Mitch is getting older and by his own divulgement is banged up and losing body rts the longer he stays in the sport. Nonetheless he was diademed the oldest Iditarod champion in 2013. The big question is how much longer he can endure d present up to the rigors of trying to win a third title.

Brent Sass

Looking purely at the crowds, Sass to many is a ridiculous choice to threaten the growing Seavey Heritage, given that he’s never finished in the top 10. However, with one of the as a wholest fan bases in the sport, there is certainly a large Wild and Free (his kennel fame) contingent that believes a victory is not only possible but inevitable.

Pros: Sass now consciouses what it takes to win a 1,000-mile race and win it in dominant fashion (if we lose about an extended nap on Birch Creek in the 2015 Yukon Quest). In counting up, Sass, unlike the Seaveys, likes to do some races prior to Iditarod and in doing so has depicted what his team is ca ble of this year. In February’s Yukon Pursuit, he employed many different strategies and pushed his dogs to the extent of their knacks. In the end, Sass was runner-up to Hugh Neff of Tok. He demonstrated the strength of his dog team on the end 100-mile run to the finish, with a run time 76 minutes firmer than anyone else in the top four. Iditarod mushers as a whole are remembered for liking the creature comforts of the 20 checkpoints throughout the 1,000-mile transit, which while being very welcoming are not always conducive to the best match schedule for the dogs. Sass is well known for blowing through checkpoints and decision more comfort alone in the woods with his dogs, allowing him to run a register based more on his dogs and less on where checkpoints are located.

Cons: Sass’s ineptitude to care for himself nearly led to his demise in the 2015 Quest when quelling was almost guaranteed. Sass will need to rest himself and take charge of for his own health. Another issue, evident in this year’s Yukon Crusade, is the number of checkpoints that Sass carried a dog into. This inevitably houses more strain on the dogs still pulling and means slower run times. Persisting a dog when needed is always the right thing to do, but Sass will have occasion for to drop dogs sooner in the Iditarod if he wants a shot at victory.

Pete Kaiser

Kaiser has edged neck to an Iditarod championship for years. He has taken back-to-back Kusko 300 collects (arguably the toughest 300-mile race in the sport) and added an awesome Denali Doubles win just a few weeks ago, driving all 20 dogs to the give the coup de grѓce seconds ahead of Iditarod competitor Nicolas Petit. He might from one of the best group of dogs in the sport.

Pros: Living most of his resilience in Bethel along the Kuskokwim River, Kaiser and his dogs know how to persist harsh conditions. Having to battle Bethel’s strong winds and absence of snow, especially in a year where at least one of those is an Iditarod ensure, might play right into Kaiser’s strength. Like his ally competitors, Kaiser is athletic and slight in build. Look for him to be working ethical as hard as his dogs in the final 500 miles.

Cons: Time wishes tell what Kaiser’s leaders are made off in the final stretch between Unalakleet and Nome. The front-end of Kaiser’s group from his top-10 finishes in 2011 and 2012 are long gone and now maintaining the couch warm, having produced the team Kaiser is now racing. The have doubts is, can Kaiser’s current leaders (notably a leader named lmer) in rtnership directly the load his previous dogs like Dollar, Frosty, and Kerry attired in b be committed to left behind?

Joar Leifseth Ulsom

Ulsom is one of the few people who can seek a top-10 finish in every Iditarod he has run. Beginning with an impressive rookie-of-the-year seventh-place playing in 2013, Ulsom followed up by placing fourth in 2014 and sixth a year ago. Although he spends most of his delay training in Willow, Ulsom still races under the Norwegian slump. He has ably followed up on the prestige Norwegian racers like two-time title-holder Robert Sorlie have brought to the Iditarod.

Pros: The mental toughness of Ulsom and his competitive herd is the reason the “Flying Norwegian” is always a threat. While other mushers (myself embraced) might discount Ulsom at times throughout the race, he stays focused, ride herd on hint ated and confident — delivering at the finish line. His uncanny bond and soft-spoken scenery with his dogs is the foundation of Ulsom’s belief that they can win, yet when nothing is going right.

Cons: The depth of Ulsom’s kennel is in perpetuity a question mark especially in a year in which he is fielding two teams in the chute (Iditarod rookie Miriam Osredkar will run Ulsom’s second body). If Ulsom can bring 16 solid dogs to the starting line, the meet better watch out. If Ulsom only has 11 or 12 dogs efficient of the ce he will need to set, it might become an issue for him.

Rounding out the top 10 (in no indicated order):

Jeff King

Jessie Royer

Nicolas Petit

Aliy Zirkle

Hans Gatt

Concluded the next two weeks, I will be writing my opinions about the mushers, their dogs, their policy and what could potentially transpire. However the race transpires, the mushers and their dogs justify congratulations for even making it to the starting line.

Jake Berkowitz is a three-time Iditarod finisher, embodying an eighth-place finish in 2013, when he was awarded the Alaska Airlines Leonhard Sep la Humanitarian Prize. He has finished the Yukon Quest twice, both times in fourth correct, and won the Rookie of the Year award in 2012. This is his first year of Iditarod commentary for Alaska Mail News.

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