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Defending champion Lance Mackey in great position to win the 2010 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race

March 16, 2010 |  6:29 am

Lance Mackey leaves the Elim checkpoint after a brief stop on Monday.

It appears that nothing will stop Lance Mackey from winning this year's Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race. The determined musher reached the White Mountain checkpoint at 9 p.m. Monday. He already has the mandatory eight-hour layover at that checkpoint behind him.

Ahead of him are only 77 miles to the finish line in Nome and his fourth consecutive Iditarod championship, a new race record.

Mackey arrived at the Elim checkpoint about two hours ahead of the second-place team of Jeff King, reports the Anchorage Daily News. Instead of stopping, Mackey flew through the checkpoint, stopping only long enough to feed his dog team and grab a cup of coffee.

King has since fallen to third, deciding to rest his team in Elim. Hans Gatt paused for just 16 minutes in town before chasing after Mackey.

King, a four-time Iditarod winner, said he didn't expect to catch up unless Mackey made a mistake.

"We'll see if he steps on his cape or somebody else finds a rocket launcher and takes him down," King said.

At this point, it looks as if this is Mackey's race, and the only thing that might keep him from winning is his team quitting on him, which is unlikely.

"We've been asking a lot of them here," Mackey said after arriving in White Mountain. "As you can tell, we still haven't bottomed out," he said, pointing out that his dogs were eating and had their heads up. "As long as they're doing that, we're moving."

-- Kelly Burgess

Photo: Lance Mackey leaves the Elim checkpoint after a brief stop on Monday. Credit: Bob Hallinen / Anchorage Daily News/Associated Press

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