A Norwegian firefighter won the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race on Thursday, enduring extreme wind and cold toward the finish of the grueling, 1,100-mile trek.
Robert Sorlie waved to hundreds of cheering spectators as he completed the race in just more than 9 1/2 days.
He led his eight-dog team across the line at 1:47 a.m. in near-zero temperatures, finishing ahead of Ramy Brooks and three-time Iditarod champion Jeff King.
“I’m feeling very well,” Sorlie said before he hugged his wife in the winner’s circle.
The 45-year-old musher finished in nine days 15 hours 47 minutes. He will take home $68,571 and a new truck.
It was only the second time Sorlie had made the trek from Anchorage to Nome, a town of 3,500 along the frozen Bering Sea. He is the second non-Alaskan to win the race and the second winner born outside the U.S. Doug Swingley of Lincoln, Mont., won four times; Martin Buser, a Swiss native who has lived in Alaska more than 20 years, became a U.S. citizen after his fourth victory last year.
“That truck is mine,” Sorlie said before leaving the village of White Mountain on Wednesday afternoon for the 77-mile home stretch to Nome.
Gusts reached 50 mph overnight, and Sorlie said, “It was a tough trail between White Mountain and Nome -- wind, cold, much wind-blown snow. But I’m feeling good now.”
Sorlie is a three-time champion of Norway’s premier long-distance dog sled race, the 600-mile Finnmarkslopet. Last year he finished ninth in the Iditarod, a record for a first-time competitor. But Sorlie said he promised his wife he will not race next year.
Sixty-four mushers entered this year’s Iditarod, which had a $600,000 purse. By late Wednesday, 49 were still in the running.