It feels like we've been waiting ages but finally the teams are go!!! We're in the centre of Alta starting in the Main Street. There are so many teams, so many enthusiastic dogs and a crowd worthy of a good pop band in concert. They really embrace the race here in Finnmark, a good example for us all.
The weather is a bit rough. Not so cold but windy which is making it feel cold. Ok for the dogs now but I'm afraid the trail is going to demand a lot from the dogs on this first leg. I don't think any records will be set on this first bit, let's put it that way.
Toughest competition this year? Probably Ole Sigleif. He's taking the race very seriously and really wants that gold medal! I wish there was only one team to worry about but there are many other fast, top teams here. Taisto and Jan should do well (incidentally Jan had taken Leepey, one of Milos's spare dogs), Radek (despite his quiet unassuming nature) is one to watch for (we expect a strong start from him but it's the end of the race that will decide his fate), Elisabeth Edland pushes her dogs hard so a good start from her and time will tell us about the rest, Ole Wingren and his son Ronny Wingren who won last year and will want to gain a reputation for being a consistent winner (although both have taken a sit-down sled so I'm not sure if they'll planning on scooting much!) and I'm sure there will be some surprises in the mix.
For those that want to follow the GPS or Results Service it can be tricky to figure out what's really going on (if you don't know how it works). Because of the time differential at the start the first teams into the first checkpoint aren't necessarily the fastest. But after the first checkpoint in Jergul they equalise the time so the teams will leave more or less in the correct order. From then on the fastest should be in the lead. You can follow online at www.finnmarkslopet.no or download their app from the App Store.
We're off on the road ourselves now and hope to get to Jergul before Milos!! I'll leave you with some pictures of Milos (looking very relaxed - he doesn't stress at the races at all), Taisto and Jan at the start.