2-time Iditarod champ says 2016 race is likely his last

BIG LAKE, Alaska (AP) Citing his age and the costs associated with the race, a two-time champion of the world's most famous sled dog race said that the 2016 race will likely be his last as a musher.

''This will be my last year, you know I'm not 20 years (old) anymore,'' Norwegian musher Robert Sorlie, 58, told The Associated Press on Friday just hours after landing in Alaska ahead of this year's Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race.

''I think 99 percent, this is the last time,'' he said.

The race has its fan-friendly ceremonial start in Anchorage on March 5, with the official start the next day about 50 miles north of Anchorage, in Willow, Alaska.

Sorlie, a firefighter in Oslo, Norway, became the second man born outside of the United States to win the grueling 1,000-mile trek to Nome in 2003. He followed that with another win two years later.

Sorlie said he's been working with dogs for 50 years, and ''everything has an end.''

Another factor in his decision is the high costs involved with getting his team, including his 16 dogs and human handlers, to Alaska from Norway. Then there's the added costs of caring for everyone while in Alaska, including getting food dropped at checkpoints along the Iditarod trail for both him and the dogs.

''It costs a lot of money to get here, a lot of money,'' Sorlie said. ''It's difficult for me to raise all this money every year.''

He estimated it costs him about $60,000 to run the race. By comparison, last year's champion, Dallas Seavey, netted about $70,000 and a new truck for winning the race.

Sorlie said he would still compete in races in Norway, and he'll likely be back as a spectator for the Iditarod.

With his championship in 2003, Sorlie also became the second non-Alaskan to win the Iditarod with five-time champion Doug Swingley of Lincoln, Mont. Martin Buser, a native of Switzerland who has lived in Alaska more than 30 years, became a U.S. citizen after winning his fourth Iditarod in 2002.

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