Brent Sass continued to lead the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race on Sunday, but he must hold off the defending champion as mushers have reached the Bering Sea coast and its treacherous ice.
Sass breezed through the checkpoint in the village of Shaktoolik on Sunday morning, staying only eight minutes. The village is 1,213 kilometers (754 miles) into the nearly 1,609-kilometer (1,000-mile) race, and the winner is expected to cross the finish line in Nome on Tuesday or Wednesday.
According to GPS trackers each musher carries, Sass had a lead of just over 16 kilometers (10 miles) on Dallas Seavey, who tied Rick Swenson for the most Iditarod victories at five with his 2021 Iditarod win.
But the GPS data on the race's Iditarod Insider website also showed Seavey running at a faster clip even though he is mushing with two fewer dogs than the 12 Sass has in harness.
Aaron Burmeister was in third place, but about 64 kilometers (40 miles) behind Seavey.
Sass picked up another award late Saturday when he was the first musher to reach the Gold Coast. Among the prizes presented to him in the community of Unalakleet was 28.35 grams (one ounce) of gold nuggets, worth about $2,000.
He's previously been awarded several cash prizes, artwork and a gourmet meal for being the first musher to reach checkpoints dotting the trail from the Anchorage area to the Gold Rush town of Nome.
Sass turned down the gourmet meal, however, because he didn't have time to eat it.
The world's most famous sled dog race began with 49 mushers on March 6 in Willow, about 121 kilometers (75 miles) north of Anchorage. Since then, four have withdrawn from the race.