The world’s most famous sled-dog race started Monday with 71 mushers setting off from the heart of Alaska on a nearly 1,000-mile trek across the wilderness.
The grandson of a co-founder of the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race was the first competitor on the trail.
Ryan Redington, 33, of Wasilla led the other mushers out of the chute in Fairbanks 44 years after his grandfather, Joe Redington Sr., helped stage the first race.
The contest has a staggered start so fans, including 2,600 schoolchildren, can cheer on the mushers, who leave every two minutes generally with teams of 16 dogs.
The fan-friendly ceremonial start of the race was held Saturday in Anchorage.
The competitive start is normally held a day later in Willow, about 50 miles north of Anchorage. But that start would have taken mushers over the Dalzell Gorge, where a lack of snow has left alders exposed on the trail and open water in places that normally would be frozen this time of year.
Winter conditions were not a concern in Fairbanks, where the temperature was minus-35 degrees Monday morning. The start was delayed a day to give mushers times to drive their dogs 360 miles north to the city of about 100,000 in interior Alaska.
Eighty-four mushers signed up for the race, but 13 dropped out before the start. Thirteen mushers ages 14 to 17 competed in the 150-mile Junior Iditarod last month.
Dallas Seavey, a third-generation Iditarod musher, has won four out of the last five races. In 2005, he became the youngest musher to have completed the Iditarod just after turning 18. Last year, his winning time was 8 days, 11 hours, 20 minutes and 16 seconds.
Seavey said he feels no pressure to get a record-tying fifth win and is fully aware that winning streaks can go for only so long.
“And I’m truly okay with that, as long as I can look back on the race and know I ran my team to the best of their ability, and we all had a good run,” he said.