MANLEY HOT SPRINGS, Alaska (KTUU) French musher Sebastien Vergnaud is keeping a close eye on his sled dogs as he cautiously makes his way up the trail.
Of the 71 mushers that started the 2017 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race, 68 began with a full roster of 16 dogs. Two racers began with 15 dogs in harness.
And then there’s Vergnaud.
The 46-year-old rookie left Fairbanks with just a dozen huskies, the smallest starting lineup allowed.
Last year, the only racer to start with 12 dogs was Zoya Denure, who scratched almost immediately in Rainy Pass. In each of the two years before that, no musher began with fewer than 14.
Vergnaud is resting the team often in hopes of keeping all 12 in harness until at least the halfway point. The musher didn't bring more huskies, he explained in Manley, because he doesn't have more. At least not yet.
Puppies are on the way back home.