ANCHORAGE - Defending Iditarod champion Lance Mackey, who also has won the Yukon Quest four times, plans to bypass both long-distance sled dog races next year and focus on the Lower 48 mushing circuit.
Mackey said he wants to experience such events as the 345-mile International Pedigree Stage Stop Sled Dog Race, which goes to 10 Wyoming towns before ending in Utah.
But Mackey added that if he wins his fourth consecutive Iditarod this month, it would be "pretty hard" not to return next year. He says he will no longer run the back-to-back Iditarod and Yukon Quest in the same year.
The 1,100-mile Iditarod kicks off with a ceremonial start in Anchorage on Saturday. The competitive clock starts ticking in Willow on Sunday, as mushers begin their trek to Nome.