Jan 31, 2013 - By Eric Blom, Staff WriterThe extreme conditions of his home course worked to local musher Jerry Bath's advantage Wednesday. His performance in the Lander leg of the International Pedigree Stage Stop Sled Dog Race moved him from ninth to seventh in the overall standings.
"It'd be great to finish in the top 10, but I'm not sure if I'll be able to do that," Bath said before the race.
Despite his concerns, Bath met his goal and is on track to stay among the 10 fastest mushers.
Aaron Peck of Grand Prairie, Alberta, finished the 43-mile course first in 3:03:06. Reigning champion Buddy Streeper of Fort Nelson, British Columbia, turned in the second-fastest time of the day at 3:04:58. Swedish musher Lars Lindh came in third at 3:06:20.
Peck also won Tuesday's stage near Pinedale, though he still chases Streeper for the overall lead.
The musher with the lowest combined time from all the stages will win the overall competition.
After four stages, Peck was 4:52 behind Streeper overall, and Lindh was in third, back 16:04 from the leader.
Hailing from Lander, Bath on Wednesday finished in 3:16:37. Before that day's race, he was in ninth place overall, behind Richard Beck from Yellowknife, Northwest Territories in eighth, and Wasilla, Alaska's Ryan Redington in seventh.
On Wednesday, Bath gained 9:47 on Beck and 14:40 on Redington, advancing the Lander man past them in the overall.
Consistency seems to be keeping Bath among the leaders more than any individual performances, as all of his finishes have been at a place lower than his rank overall.
Including Wednesday, he has placed ninth twice, 12th once, and eighth once. His accumulated time, however, was only 1:33:36 off the lead, giving him seventh place overall.
About 100 people stood along the chute after the starting line as the mushers took off at three minute intervals pulled by their teams. The route ran high in the Wind River range along groomed snowmobile trails from the parking lot at the intersection of Highway 28 and Louis Lake Road to Worthen Meadows Picnic Area and back.
The Lander race was the fourth stage in the seven-stage, 350-mile race.
"It's a son of a gun," race director Frank Teasley said. "This is probably my favorite stage because it's where the mountains meet the desert. It's extreme."
He added that the course includes plenty of climbing and would finish up hill.
More than finishing fast, Bath was concerned with having fun and for his dog's safety.
He said his main goal was "too have fun and have a clean run-bring everybody back healthy."
Before the race, Bath had to decide which team to run. The race allows each musher 16 dogs in total, but competitors rotate the dogs that make up their team for any day's race.
Following his schedule, Bath, his wife Sandy and friend Tonya Pepper rigged 10 dogs up to the sled. A lead dog, however, had pulled out a toenail the previous day, and Bath had to switch it out for another.
He said the injured dog would be ready to run again the next day, and the change seems to have paid off.
The race continued Thursday with a stage near Big Piney, a race near Kemmerer on Friday, and the final leg near Evanston on Saturday.
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