Iditarod champion repeats achievement
( dpa ) - Musher Lance Mackey won the grueling Iditarod dog sled race for the second year running Wednesday, completing the 1,770-kilometer route from Anchorage to Nome, Alaska in 9 days, 11 hours, 46 minutes and 48 seconds.
He was the first person ever to record consecutive wins in the event, which is considered one of the world's toughest sporting challenges.
Mackey, 37, crossed the finish line 76 minutes ahead of second- placed finisher Jeff King, 51, who won the race in 2006.
The win was a repeat of Mackey's 2007 feat, when he became the first musher to win back-to-back runs in the 1,600-kilometer Yukon Quest International Sled Dog Race and the Iditarod in the same year.
The victory came with a cheque for 69,000 dollars and a new truck. It also continued the Mackey family's domination of the sport after his father, Dick, won the race in 1978 and his brother Rick won in 1983.
"You're a hero, and truly an inspiration to all of us," said Alaska Governor Sarah Palin.
The race commemorates the 1925 dog sled relay run that delivered diphtheria vaccine to Nome from Anchorage to prevent a health catastrophe in the remote Alaskan town.
Mackey's victory came after he lost a key lead dog early on to an infected foot. Mackey also had King chasing him closely for more than half the race.
According to sport broadcaster ESPN, King's dogs were faster on the flats but Mackey's dogs outran them on two crucial climbs. The key move however was a little more prosaic. At one of the final stages King decided to get a short nap, leaving Mackey to sneak out and build a 57 minute lead.
"He was still sleeping, so I snuck out," Mackey said. "He's mad about it because, honestly, there is no way I could outrun his team if I left at the exact same time."