NOME, Alaska — Norway's Robert Sorlie won the Iditarod on Wednesday, overcoming insomnia and a dwindling dog team for his second victory in only three tries.
Sorlie, a 47-year-old firefighter, crossed under the arch that serves as the finish line at 8:39 a.m., winning the 1,100-mile race across Alaska in nine days, 18 hours, 39 minutes and 31 seconds.
"It feels good," Sorlie said. "I am ready for breakfast."
Sorlie finished the race with eight dogs — half the number he started the race with, but the same number that took him to victory two years ago.
Sorlie is a three-time champion of Norway's premier long-distance sled dog race, the 600-mile Finnmarkslopet.
This year's run was only the third time Sorlie had made the 1,100-mile trip from Anchorage to Nome, a town of 3,500 at the edge of the frozen Bering Sea. In his first showing, in 2002, he finished ninth, setting a rookie record. He won the race in 2003.
This time, Sorlie grabbed the lead early. The owner of a small kennel, he fended off a strong field that included seasoned veterans and five other Iditarod champions.
"I think this win is better than the 2003," he said. "This year, the dogs are better."
Sorlie is the second Iditarod winner born outside the United States and the second person who didn't make their home in Alaska to win. Doug Swingley of Lincoln, Mont., won four times and Martin Buser, a Swiss native who has lived in Alaska more than two decades, became a U.S. citizen after winning his fourth Iditarod in 2002.
For winning the 33rd Iditarod, Sorlie will receive $72,066.67 and a pickup truck. Seventy-nine mushers started this year's race, which has a total purse of $750,000. As of Wednesday morning, 66 mushers were still in the running.
Ed Iten, racing in his seventh Iditarod, finished about an hour behind Sorlie in second place. His previous best had been fifth place last year.
Defending champion Mitch Seavey was in third place, followed by Ramy Brooks, who was runner-up in 2002 and 2003.
Rookie Bjornar Andersen of Norway, Sorlie's nephew, was running in fifth place.
Thirteen mushers dropped out during the race. Legally blind rookie Rachael Scdoris of Bend, Ore., was at the back of the pack, accompanied by Paul Ellering, a former professional wrestler and former Iditarod competitor who is serving as Scdoris' "visual interpreter."
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