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Frenchman leads in Alaska’s Iditarod race

By AAP Newswire

A Frenchman continues to lead the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race.

Nicolas Petit was the first musher Saturday to leave the checkpoint at Eagle Island, about 953 kilometres into the 1,000 mile (1609 kilometre) race across the Alaska wilderness to Nome.

Petit, who was last year's runner-up, now lives in Girdwood, Alaska, a town known more for downhill skiing than mushing. Girdwood is about 40 miles south of Anchorage.

He left about five hours of ahead of the defending champion, Norwegian Joar Ulsom, and Alaskan Pete Kaiser. Seven other mushers also have left Eagle Island.

Every musher must take an eight-hour break at a checkpoint somewhere along the Yukon River. Among the top three, Petit and Ulsom have already taken that mandatory rest, but Kaiser has not.

Veteran mushers Emily Maxwell of Iowa City, Iowa, and Marcelle Fressineau of Whitehorse, Canada, left the race Saturday, citing concerns about the health of their race teams.