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KASILOF -- Veteran Iditarod Trail Sled Race musher Paul Gebhardt has sold most of his dogs to two other top contenders and says he's bowing out for a while to spend more time with his family.
"We have had a really successful (racing) career up to this point," Gebhardt said. "We are just taking a reprieve for a little bit."
A construction contractor, Gebhardt opted to sell the dogs to Linwood Fiedler of Willow and Rick Swenson of Two Rivers.
He said he will spend at least a couple of years concentrating on his family.
He and wife Evy "decided we need to spend more time together," he said. With daughter Kristin, 17, heading off to college soon, the family simply needed more time, he said.
Gebhardt, who finished fifth in the Iditarod this year, sold 16 racing dogs to Fiedler, who placed second.
He also gave Fiedler a two-year lease on leader Red Dog, and retained breeding rights on the racing team, he said. The 5-year-old Red Dog won the Lolly Medley Golden Harness Award in 2000 as the Iditarod's outstanding lead dog.
Swenson, a five-time Iditarod champion, bought 21 of the younger dogs, leaving Gebhardt with seven retired dogs, plus 10 pups left to sell, he said.
The retired dogs, from his first litter in 1992, will stay with the family, he said.
Gebhardt began his racing career in 1994, when he ran the Copper Basin 300. In 1996, he entered the Iditarod for the first time, finishing 26th. He placed 14th in 1997, 13th in 1998, sixth in 1999 and second in 2000.