NOME, Alaska (KTUU) -- When 2019 Iditarod champion Pete Kaiser finished the 2020 race as the 14th musher to cross under the Burled Arch, the scene in Nome was world's different than his winning run the year before.
Whereas hundreds of fans lined Front Street to see the first Yupik musher win the Last Great Race in 2019, only few dozen fans and volunteers cheered him down the chute Wednesday.
In addition to asking fans not to come to Nome due to concerns over coronavirus, the city did not sound the siren to announce mushers nearing the finish line.
"It's quite different, not just being here in a different position but having not as many people up and down the streets. And obviously I haven't really soaked it in that much, but I guess it's back to reality for us now that we've been out on the trail and kinda secluded from all of the news, but it's been trickling in and we've been hearing this and that," Kaiser said. "Maybe it's bad enough we'll be wishing we were
back on the trail in a few days."
Although a few hundred came out to see the Thomas Waerner race down Front Street, the crowd was about a third of the size present when Kasier won.
"This is a pretty sad scene here without the big crowd, and it's too bad and I feel bad for Thomas not to have the big crowd like I got to experience last year because that was a real special moment," Kaiser said.
Kaiser said a number of challenges kept him further back in the race than he had originally hoped to finish.
"It felt like one of those years where we just had several of them in a row, and we'd have a problem and fix it then have another one. That's just normal Iditarod stuff," Kaiser said. "Some of those races that go smoothly don't teach you nearly as much as the ones that go difficulty. You kind of learn new things about yourself when you feel like quitting or being done or regrouping and getting out there and trying to finish. I'm glad we made it here because there was definitely some low moments."
Kaiser congratulated winner Thomas Waerner on his victory and although he said he does not know Waerner personally and did not see him much on the trail, Kaiser expects there to be competition from him in the future.
"Everything I saw he is the ultimate professional. He always looked amazing, he handled himself in a very professional manner. I know he was a very good track record of racing over in Norway and if he continues to come back he'll be a threat for years," Kaiser said.
Kaiser finished the race with nine dogs.
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