The Latest: 2018 Iditarod sled dog race begins in Alaska

WILLOW, Alaska (AP) The Latest on Alaska’s Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race (all times local):

2 p.m.

Mushers and their dogs are hitting the snowy trail as Alaska’s famed Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race begins following a rough year for organizers.

Musher Cody Strathe of Fairbanks and his 16-dog team were the first to take off Sunday across frozen Willow Lake, about 75 miles (120 kilometers) north of Anchorage.

Sixty-seven teams are signed up for the long-distance trek over mountain ranges, frozen rivers and other dangerous terrain. The winner is expected to reach the finish in the old Gold Rush town of Nome in about nine days.

The race is taking place after organizers spent much of the year dealing with multiple problems, including a champion’s dog doping scandal, the loss of a major sponsor and escalating pressure from animal rights activists.