Four-time champion Martin Buser is holding on to his lead in the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race.
The Big Lake musher was the first to reach the checkpoint at Nikolai, clocking in at 1:09 a.m. Tuesday, followed more than four hours later by Nicolas Petit of Girdwood. Nikolai is more than 700 miles from Nome, the finish line of Alaska's nearly 1,000-mile race.
Buser, who last won in 2002, is among 69 mushers who began the race Sunday afternoon in Willow. Sixty-eight mushers remained in the running, with Cindy Gallea of Wykoff, Minn., scratching in Skwentna on Sunday.
The race is still in the early stages, with jockeying for the lead fluid until mushers begin taking a mandatory 24-hour layover and two eight-hour rests.