STRATHSPEY — A musher has earned the nickname of the ‘Flying Scotsman’ following his latest performance in the United States.
Twenty-three-year-old dog sled racer John Stewart finished 10th in The International Pedigree Stage Stop Sled Dog Race, the largest sled dog race in the lower 48 states.
The race was founded in 1996 by Frank Teasley to make sled dog racing more accessible to the public.
Stewart covered 325 miles in 25 hours 15 minutes and 43 seconds in the race which took place over eight days.
The North Sea diver’s best result was a fourth place on Friday when he covered the stage in three hours and 17 minutes.
The IPSSSDR, which began on January 30 in Jackson, travels through 10 Wyoming towns before finishing in Park City in neighbouring Utah.
With its unique ‘stage stop’ racing format, the IPSSSDR has a lay-over in a different community each night, this year including Lander, Pinedale, Cora, Alpine, Diamondville, Evanston, Mountain View and Lyman.
Stewart battled all the way with four-times Iditarod champion, Jeff King from Alaska, and eventually held him off by 32 minutes.
Now the young Scot heads back to Montana where he is staying with another Iditrod legend, Doug Swingley, also a four-times winner, to prepare for his next race.
The gruelling ‘Race to the Sky’ contested over 380 miles will be Stewart’s last Iditarod qualifier for 2010.
Stewart will be back in Scotland later this month and will return to his diving company, Acergy, who have helped sponsor this latest USA venture.
Alan Stewart owns the Cairngorm Sleddog Centre on Rothiemurchus and is delighted that his son is making such good progress in the sport.
He said: “John has been running sleddogs since he was six-years-old. This is not a game for him. With a result like this John has earned the right to go up against the very best sleddog racers in the world, and in 2010 he will do that.
“By doing so he will be following in the footsteps of a Speysider who helped start the sleddog sport back in the early 1900s – Alec ‘Scotty’ Allan.”
John has just launched his new website [http://www.johnfortheiditarod.com] and has already had hits and good luck wishes from all over the world.
The Iditarod, which is held in mid-March, throws jagged mountain ranges, frozen rivers, dense forest, desolate tundra and miles of windswept coast at the mushers and their dog teams.
It runs from the capital of Alaska, which is home to 250,000 people, to Nome on the western Bering Sea coast, and takes between 10 to 17 days for the teams of 12 to 16 dogs and their musher to cover.
The route, now a National Historic Trail, had its beginnings as a mail and supply route with gold coming out in the opposite direction at one time.
In 1925, part of the Iditarod Trail became a life saving highway for epidemic-stricken Nome. Diptheria threatened and serum had to be brought in by intrepid mushers and their hard-driving dogs.