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Iditarod mushers off and running

March 6, 2006 at 12:38 PM

WILLOW, Alaska, March 6 (UPI) -- The first of 83 teams of mushers and their dogs were bounding through the frozen Alaska landscape Monday in the annual 1,100-mile Iditarod sled dog race.

Thousands of people lined the starting area in Willow on Sunday to see the bounding teams off on their race to Nome. By Monday morning, 34 teams had set out, and past winner Lance Mackey was the first to reach the Finger Lake checkpoint, about 90 miles into the race.

The reigning champion, Robert Sorlie of Norway, is not competing this year, the Anchorage Daily News reported.

Of the teams, 28 live in other states or Canada, and five hail from other continents.

This year's top 30 finishers will split a $795,000 pot. Another $40,000 will be split among the remaining arrivals. The winner will pocket $69,000 and receive a new pickup truck valued at almost $45,000.

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