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For Iditarod 2021, new trail comes with new rules for rest

Among the changes for this year’s race are adjustments to mandatory rest for teams
A view of the Iditarod start at Deshka Landing on March 7, 2021.
A view of the Iditarod start at Deshka Landing on March 7, 2021.(KTUU)
Published: Mar. 8, 2021 at 8:30 AM AKST
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - The inaugural running of the gold trail loop in 2021 doesn’t only include changes to the race route for mushers and their teams. With a different trail to follow, required rest — which is mandatory for all mushers and their dogs at several points throughout the race — is also not quite the same as usual.

While the number of mandatory rests and their duration are the same, details of each have been amended to go along with the changes to the trail itself. With the race beginning and ending at Deshka Landing, and looping around Flat, locations of each of the mandatory rests have been noticeably altered.

RELATED: Jeremy Keller, who ran part of 2020 Iditarod before mushing back home, says this year’s trail will present new challenges for racers

Mushers, including those who try to avoid staying within checkpoints, are also expected to camp out more than usual and perhaps not take extensive breaks at designated stops as often as they would during traditional years.

Several communities that would normally serve as checkpoints, such as Takotna, are also not on the list year and as such, rest can’t be taken there, since mandatory rest has to be at an official checkpoint.

Some things do remain the same, though. As usual, racers will be required to take one full, 24-hour layover. This can happen anywhere from Skwentna to Iditarod on the way out along the gold trail loop.

On this path, Skwentna is the first checkpoint after Deshka Landing and last checkpoint before it on the way back, about 67 miles away; Iditarod lies more than 400 miles from the start on racers’ ways out.

Like it also is during normal years, two eight-hour layovers are required of mushers. The first, which is usually along the Yukon River, may be taken anywhere along the stretch from the first Rohn checkpoint to the loop at Flat, and back to Rohn. This provides a 433-mile section including more than half a dozen checkpoints in which teams can choose where to rest.

The second eight-hour layover will be required for each team at Skwentna on the return trip, where mushers will be less than 70 miles from the finish line. This location will serve as a sort of replacement for the usual mandatory layover that would normally happen at White Mountain.

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