ANVIK -- A sleepy Linwood Fiedler feasted on lobster, smoked duck and champagne and shared his gourmet meal with villagers after reclaiming the lead in the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race.
Fiedler arrived at the Anvik checkpoint at 10:14 p.m. Thursday, winning a seven-course meal and $3,500 for being the first musher to reach the Yukon River.
"I am so ready for this," said Fiedler as he sat down at a table covered with a white linen cloth and adorned with fresh flowers and silver candlesticks.
"These chefs are tired of cooking for Doug. They want to cook for someone new this time," Fiedler said, referring to defending champion Doug Swingley of Lincoln, Mont. Swingley has won the gourmet meal in the past two races.
When presented with the main entree of poached lobster tail, in this village where moose meat is a staple, Fiedler invited those in the crowd of 50 who had never eaten lobster to take a taste.
Fiedler said his team of 13 dogs handled the trip to Anvik well, thought two of his less experienced dogs seemed surprised when he didn't stop to rest in the village of Shageluk.
Fiedler, who gives tourists sled dog rides during the summer at Norris Glacier near Juneau, said he would take his 24-hour mandatory layover in Anvik. It's an unprecedented gamble. Race watchers say that's the farthest anyone has ever gone before taking the mandatory rest.
Swingley predicted Fiedler would pay the price with a tired dog team farther down the trail.
"I tried to talk him out of it," Swingley said. "I thought he was in a real good position."
But Fiedler said it's important to try new things. In the past few years, mushers have been waiting until later in the race to take their break.
Swingley was back on the trail Friday after finishing his break in Iditarod. He passed through the Shageluk checkpoint at 8:13 a.m. He shrugged off Fiedler's lead, saying he was more concerned with three-time champion Jeff King, who left Iditarod about three hours behind .
King was in fourth place, behind Nenana musher Gerald Riley. King left Iditarod at 4:02 a.m. while Riley left at 2:45 a.m. Rick Swenson was in 5th place, leaving Iditarod at 4:50 a.m.
Seward musher Mitch Seavey, doing his mandatory layover at Iditarod, said he thought it was a mistake for Fiedler to push his team without a longer rest. The Seward musher said the trail out of Ophir was marred by icy dirt patches and large mossy humps that kept the dogs from developing a good running rhythm.
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