Monday, March 10
Brooks a close second, but down to eight dogs

Associated Press

UNALAKLEET, Alaska -- Norwegian musher Robert Sorlie has been running ahead of the competition for days, but he said Monday he's feeling pressure to speed up in the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race.

Ramy Brooks is applying the heat, Sorlie said moments after reaching the Bering Sea coast town of Unalakleet with 11 dogs.

''I'm not comfortable with my lead,'' he said. ''He is too near me. I don't like it.''

Sorlie arrived at 2:50 p.m. He hit the trail again at 6:30 p.m., while Brooks continued to rest his team in Unalakleet. For reaching Unalakleet first, Sorlie received $2,500 in gold nuggets. He also won a gourmet meal and $3,500 in cash at the previous checkpoint at Kaltag on Sunday night for being the first musher to complete the Yukon River portion of the 1,130-mile race.

But he didn't have much time to bask in the lead.

Brooks was right behind him, pulling into Unalakleet at 4 p.m. with nine dogs. He left Kaltag 1½ hours behind Sorlie, but narrowed the gap in the 90-mile run to Unalakleet.

Brooks had his own worries entering Unalakleet. He had to drop a dog suffering from harness irritation, leaving him with a team of eight dogs and 260 miles to go to Nome. Mushers must have at least five dogs to finish.

''We'll just have to play it by ear and see what happens,'' Brooks said as he fed his team. ''The race isn't over until the finish line in Nome.''

Brooks finished in second place last year.

Behind Brooks was three-time Iditarod champion Jeff King who finished sixth last year. King left Kaltag at 7:50 a.m. and was seen by a snowmachiner resting his dogs midway to Unalakleet.

''I wouldn't count Jeff out,'' Brooks said. ''Jeff can move when he needs to.''

Defending champion Martin Buser was in fourth place, leaving Kaltag at 2:02 p.m.

John Baker was fifth, Ken Anderson was sixth, Ed Iten was seventh, Sonny Lindner was eighth, five-time Iditarod winner Rick Swenson was ninth and Linwood Fiedler was 10th.

Twelve mushers have scratched, leaving 52 mushers still in the race.

Veteran musher Charlie Boulding scratched Sunday in Anvik because his dogs were ill. While resting in Unalakleet, he said three of his dogs were sick when he decided to scratch and two more have gotten sick since then.

Prior to the start of the race, Boulding said he expected to finish in the top 10 again this year. He's run the Iditarod every race since 1994, finishing in the top 10 seven of those nine years. He was third in 1998.

Boulding, 60, who was diagnosed with colon cancer last summer, said his decision to scratch had nothing to do with his own health.

''I feel great. This is the best I've felt all winter. All this moving around got my metabolism going,'' he said.

Two mushers -- rookie Todd Capistrant of Emerald, Wis., and G.B. Jones of Wasilla -- scratched at Kaltag on Monday.

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