Prelude to the Endgame

First off, I just want to say that I was waayy off with the numbers on Sab & Hans last night on the radio–the figures I was working from had them approx 4+ hours off Hugh’s pace, when in reality they were only 2+.hours behind. Nothing wrong with that figure for a win scenario, especially if their teams look strong (which they do). That was a fumbled ball on my part.

What we saw from Iditarod to Anvik was John Baker emerging as the new power in the race–Hugh Neff was also looking very strong having reached the Yukon River in first place, but there was no arguing that Baker was moving faster. He took charge of the lead on the way to E. Island with a commanding performance that showed canine dominance, and sent a signal to all of his competitors. Last night I read an article by Joe Runyan where he finally put out his opinion on who he thought was the guy to beat, ultimately forecasting that Baker was going to brush off his competitors from here on out–it’s a fantastic insight into Baker’s team, and you can read it here

Hugh Neff, Lance Mackey, Ray Redington Jr, and Sonny Lindner are the next group on John’s heels, and all moving similar speeds–good, but not as good as Baker. Baker simply looks stronger than these guys, and what happens next will probably be a separation from those four.

With said, and I think Joe makes some fantastic & insightful points in his story most of which I agree with, it doesn’t really account for some of the teams that are coming along in the next wave who have been playing their cards a bit closer to their vests. Sebastion Schnuelle, Hans Gatt, and Ramey Smyth are all three running faster teams then Baker, all with big numbers and more rest in their bank account. I don’t know which of those three will be the first to challenge John, but I’m confident they will before long–and I don’t think for a second that Baker’s team is necassarily “stronger than theirs–in fact, the footage of Ramey’s team in Anvik was nothing short of awe inspiring, and I don’t believe that Baker can outrun him to Nome with only the 2:30 minute lead that he had going into Eagle Island…

Okay, now with that said, this is where things start to actually get sort of interesting.

John Baker only took 3:56 for rest in Eagle, and is now leading the way to Kaltag–essentially, by only taking a short break like this, John Baker is very impressively initiating the “end game” and from here on out, this race is for real. If his competitors fail to respond with a similar shortened rest, this could easily turn into the “John Baker Show” for the next few days until he reaches Nome.

This move by Baker is the beginning of the end–it is not enough for somebody to simply get off the straw and follow him–their dogs have to be strong and resilient, and completely ready for all hell to break loose on the Coast, because I fully believe Baker’s dogs are. I think Sab, Hans, and Ramey–my money being on Ramey–are the only ones with any “real” chance of contesting John now. From here on out, they have to be gladiators…or John Baker is going to beat them.

Thanks for tuning in–more to follow…

Like my writing style? You might want to check out my dog mushing adventure story Ballad of the Northland

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15 Responses to “Prelude to the Endgame”

  1. Thanks for the insight Jason!

  2. michelle cooper Reply March 12, 2011 at 08:03

    Great input Jason…thank you!
    Keep up the great work!

  3. The 3 I see who are most likely to win are Baker, Smyth, and the one no ones talking about Dee Dee. People are overlooking that she is truely the one that has had the fastest team and if she is able to make a couple of big moves could give the guys a run for their money. Go Dee Dee!

    • I haven’t overlooked her in the sense that I haven’t noticed her speedy times–indeed, she is the fastest team on the trail–I just think she’s too far out of the picture to bring her plan properly to fruition in the winners circle–plus, she’s not the deal closer that some of those other teams are. I do believe she’ll scare the heck out of the top 5. Nice to see you on here, Chad 🙂

      • No doubt Dee Dee will have to break from her norm and attempt a few monster runs to try to win. I should have had Gatt on my list too. Pretty exciting we will have a brand new 1st time Iditarod champion!

      • She took off from Eagle with a short rest–definitely in the hunt now

  4. Thanks for your insight Jason. I got hooked on the Iditarod from reading Gary Paulsen books. Now every March it is a huge unit that I do with my elementary students.

  5. Wish I knew what Jessie Royer was up to.
    She has just been flying the past couple of days but has yet to take her Yukon 8hr.
    Any thoughts Jason?

    • Hi RTTS–Jessie is moving up very well into the top ten–look for her to be a real player on the coast–I don’t think she can win, but she’s going to end up near the top I think!

  6. Me, too, RTTS. Has to take 8 in Kaltag. She has always been incredibly strong in the last days of the race. Jessie seems to be impervious to ‘lack of sleep’, and functions and thinks well even at this point.

  7. Jason, how did you know Ramey and his team would move up to become a serious contenders in this race? You were talking about him having a chance to win shortly after this race started.

    Sawbill 🙂

    • Just a series of educated guesses, Northbound–I’ve raced against Ramey my entire life, and I know how he operates–it’s not that hard to “see things coming together for him” when you have so much history 🙂

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