Stuck on ice with dogs that refused to mush, lead Iditarod sledder Nicolas Petit dropped from Alaska’s famed Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race late Monday.
An early favorite in the world’s best-known dog-sled race, Petit had been stuck for most of the day with his dogs on a section of Bering Sea ice about 200 miles from the finish line in Nome. The dogs refused to move, and Petit ultimately had them taken off the trail by snowmobile.
“Petit scratched in the best interest of his race team’s mental well-being,” said a statement released by Iditarod race managers.
The 1,000-mile race started on March 2 in Anchorage with 52 mushers. As of Tuesday afternoon, 10, including Petit, had dropped out.
The winner is expected in Nome early Wednesday.
The new Iditarod leaders as of Tuesday afternoon were Pete Kaiser of Bethel, Alaska, and Joar Leifseth Ulsom, a Norwegian musher who won last year’s race.
Kaiser, who is Yupik, would be the first Alaska Native musher to win the Iditarod since 2011. As of early Tuesday, he had left the village of Elim, about 120 miles from the Nome finish line, five minutes ahead of Ulsom.
Petit ran into trouble last year in nearly the same spot of the Bering Sea Coast when he was in position to win the 2018 race. But Petit, a French musher who lives in the Alaska ski community of Girdwood, got lost in a snowstorm. Ulsom passed him, and Petit wound up in second place.
This year’s collapse was precipitated by a dogfight, Petit told race officials. The troubles started when a dog named Joee jumped on a younger dog, Petit said in a video posted on the Iditarod’s website.
“I yelled at Joee. And everybody heard Daddy yelling. It doesn’t happen. And then they wouldn’t go anymore. Anywhere. So we camped here,” he said in the interview, conducted Monday morning on the Bering Sea coast.
Editor’s note: The number of mushers who have dropped out of the race has been updated.