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Swiss-born musher Martin Buser won the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race today and became the first person to finish the 1,159-mile run in under 11 days.

Buser, leaving his closest rivals about 60 miles behind him, arrived under the burl arch that marks the finish line in this Gold Rush community shortly after 4:15 a.m. His time was some seven hours better than the record time of 11 days, 1 hour and 53 minutes set by four-time winner Susan Butcher in 1990.Thousands of people lined Front Street, just a half-block from the frozen Bering Sea, as a grinning Buser and his team of dogs came in, accompanied by a police escort with flashing red lights.

"I tried not to think too victorious before I got here, but it worked out," he said. "I'm pretty excited."

He said he thought his record time "can be bettered again, by six or eight hours, easily."

The Iditarod victory is the first for Buser, 33, a perennial front-runner who finished second last year after steering his team through a blinding blizzard.

This year, Buser's lead had grown so wide during the second half of the race that it had generated into a battle for second place.

Trailing Buser early today were Butcher, Tim Osmar, DeeDee Jonrowe and Rick Swenson, last year's champion and the Iditarod's only five-time winner.

They were still about 60 miles from Nome when Buser cruised across the finish line to claim $50,000 in first-place money.

A record 76 mushers started the 20th annual race Feb. 29. The race, named for an abandoned Gold Rush town along the route, commemorates a 1925 relay of diphtheria serum to Nome.

Weather, which in many Iditarods has proved a critical factor in the stretch, remained relatively calm and mild toward the end of the race. Overnight lows in the Nome area were in the mid-20s.

Buser's wife, Kathryn Chapoton, and their two young sons were in Nome for Buser's arrival.

"He deserves to win," she said Tuesday. "He has worked very hard for this." Buser gave the boys, named Rohn and Nikolai for two checkpoints along the Iditarod trail, a hug after he arrived.

It was Buser's ninth Iditarod and seventh finish in the top 10.

Buser, who was born in Zurich, took up mushing as a teenager and moved to Alaska in 1979. He and his wife, a kindergarten teacher, own a kennel with about 70 huskies. In the summer, he works as a fisherman.

"He just has dogs that are trained to go fast," said race coordinator Joanne Potts. A hard trail, cooperative weather and a lack of new snow also helped him set a record pace, she said Tuesday.