It won’t be the close finish many Yukon Quest fans had hoped for. After days of going neck ‘n neck for the title, Allen Moore won’t be racing against Brent Sass on the final stretch.
While travelling the trail between Carmacks and Braeburn early Sunday morning, Sass was injured in a fall and was assisted off the trail by the Canadian Rangers. He was transported to Whitehorse for further evaluation, and Race Judge Scott Smith drove his dog team into Braeburn.
Fellow Musher Hugh Neff also assisted with Brent’s team, telling the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner that he arrived upon the team waiting with a Canadian Ranger. He proceeded to feed and water them, making sure everything was OK. Once Smith arrived, Neff helped him lead the team into Braeburn.
He told the paper that Sass – a three-time winner of the Yukon Quest Sportsmanship Award – is the one who’s always doing the saving, and he was just glad he was there to be able to help him out this time.
Moore, who was ahead of Sass at the time of the accident, arrived in Braeburn at 6:40 am, so had been there for several hours when Sass and his team were brought in. Moore was able to leave at 2:40 pm, but was clearly affected by the news of the accident.
He stayed an hour past his earliest departure time to show support for Sass and see him off to Whitehorse. As a true testament to how close this race has been, Moore said as he left, "it feels weird not to race out of here.”
Moore and his team of 11 dogs were expected to hit the finish line at Takhini Hot Springs early Monday morning. Neff arrived in Braeburn at 4:13 pm with eight dogs and was able to leave at 12:13 am Monday, which would likely mean an early afternoon finish.
Late Sunday night Wild and Free Mushing posted an update on their Facebook page, letting everyone know Brent is out of the hospital and doing good.
“Thanks to everyone who has expressed your concern and support for Team Wild & Free. Brent will surely have a story to tell, but for now his handler crew wanted to let you all know that Brent is doing good and resting in a Whitehorse hotel. The dog team is in excellent condition.
“We appreciate so deeply the work of the Yukon Quest Race Vets, Officials, Logistics Team, Canadian Rangers, Volunteers, Flight Paramedics, and everyone else who helped us out today. Folks at the checkpoint were extremely helpful and supportive and media members kindly gave us space to work swiftly to support our team. More to come and good luck to our friends on the trail!”
Third Place On the Line
The closest race now will likely be between Matt Hall and Cody Strathe, who were sitting third and fourth respectively when they left Pelly Monday afternoon.
Strathe had been ahead of Hall for the majority of the race, but Hall made up some ground on the stretch between Dawson and Pelly. The two rested at Stepping Stone together and entered Pelly just one minute apart.
Asked how he was doing upon arrival, a frosty Hall replied, “Cold.” The temperature in Pelly was -31 C at that point. Both he and Strathe parked their teams for a lengthy break before heading to McCabe Creek. Hall left at 2:28 pm while Strathe followed half an hour later.
Hall, who has nine dogs left on his team, gained an even bigger lead as Strathe chose to rest at McCabe in the evening while he continued straight through. Hall was only eight miles out of Carmacks as of 11:30 pm, but will likely take his rest there – meaning Strathe may be able to catch up. Strathe is running with eight dogs.
Other mushers navigating the trail between Pelly and Carmacks included John Schandelmeier and Ken Anderson.
Schandelmeier arrived in Pelly about an hour after Strathe’s departure with 10 dogs and took a four-hour rest before leaving. He has a two-and-a-half hour lead on Ken Anderson, who snuck up on everyone in Pelly just before 11 pm.
Anderson gave his dogs a quick snack and then headed back out with 11 on his team – dropping one in Pelly.
Pelly the Destination for Remaining Seven
The remaining mushers were all en route to Pelly Sunday night. Torsten Kohnert left Stepping Stone after a few hours rest, while Curt Perano and Dave Dalton were making their way to Stepping Stone.
Jerry Joinson and Mandy Nauman were camped out at Scroggie Creek while Brian Wilmshurst was three miles out of Scroggie. The three of them had been travelling together for much of the race, but separated after Dawson City.
Hank DeBruin and his Siberians made up some time on Wilmshurst coming out of Dawson. Hank was just 11 miles back of Scroggie after starting the day eight hours behind.