Hugh Neff got his Valentine’s Day off to a great start by being the first musher into Carmacks this morning at 1:30am, a full hour and a half before second place Allen Moore, and almost two and a half ahead of third place Brent Sass. Neff rested his team for about two and a half hours, Moore for four hours, and Sass for just ten minutes. Matt Hall and Ed Hopkins were the fourth and fifth racers to reach the checkpoint, Hall resting his team for a few hours before hitting the trail again at 8:41am, and Hopkins parking for four hours, resuming his race just before 9am.
Back in Dawson the last of the layovers came to an end, as Tore Albrigsten, Sébastien Dos Santos Borges, and Gaetan Pierrard all departed before 10am.
Pelly Crossing was a hub of activity throughout the day, welcoming Torsten Kohnert and Tom Frode Johansen in the early afternoon for a few hours rest, then Yuka Honda and Seth Barnes later in the evening, both of whom stopped to rest and replenish. Dave Dalton and Mike Ellis are expected some time in the early hours of Monday morning.
Stepping Stone is set to be a packed venue tomorrow, with Luc Tweddell 20 miles out, Laura Neese at 40, and the convoy of Cody Strathe, Andrew Pace and Paige Drobny near the 50 mile mark. Rob Cooke and Tore Albrigsten have reached the Scroggie Creek dog drop and are camped for the time being, while Sébastien Dos Santos Borges is a little over 20 miles away, and Gaetan Pierrard about 50.
Shortly after 5pm, and 15 miles ahead of Sass and Moore, Hugh Neff cruised into a Braeburn checkpoint crowded with fans. Neff said he was relishing the fact that Allen Moore was behind him for a change, something he had long dreamed about. Asked about the warmer temperatures, Neff’s reply was characteristically sly. “It’s a little bit hot out there, so we took our time, obviously.”
Sass was next in at 7:10pm, having passed Allen Moore on the trail about ten miles out from the checkpoint. Closing the gap on Neff and Moore on this section of trail was particularly significant because it is the same piece where Sass suffered his race-ending fall in 2014. Allen Moore hit the Braeburn line at 7:33pm, remarking that the warm weather was the biggest challenge of the race so far. “Last yeasr it was 50 below and it seems like it’s 50 above [this year].” Quizzed about his level of fatigue with only 100 miles left in the race, Moore said “I feel god. You always feel tired. You don’t run 900 miles and not feel tired.” When Matt Hall pulled in at 9:07pm in fourth place, his first move was to peruse the arrivals timesheet. Rounding out the top five, Ed Hopkins is presently 55 miles from the checkpoint.
After a mandatory 8-hour layover, the mushers at Braeburn will depart for the last 100 miles of this year’s Quest. Current leader Hugh Neff goes out at 12:35 tomorrow morning.