The blistering pace continued for the top five in the 1,000-mile race and a Champion was announced in the 300 as the third day of the 33rd running of the Yukon Quest draws to a close.
The day’s action began about as early as it could have with Hugh Neff arriving in Circle not long after midnight, followed less than ten minutes later by Allen Moore. Both stayed to rest for a few hours. Next to check in was Brent Sass, but only for supplies, since his lead out of the preceding checkpoint had allowed him four hours of rest on the trail 40 miles out of Circle. Matt Hall and Ed Hopkins were the fourth and fifth in, respectively, and while Hopkins dried gear and had a meal, Hall performed some minor sled repairs. Handlers and race officials had a helpful early warning system from the local dogs in the community, who would erupt in barking as each arriving musher rode by their backyard.
Back at the picturesque Central checkpoint, mush hour traffic was in full effect in this morning’s earliest hours, but it didn’t last long, with many mushers in the middle of the pack only breaking for an hour or two of respite between the rime encrusted grove where the dog yard was situated before making their dash to Circle and beyond.
Late afternoon brought with it a Champion for the always exciting YQ300 event. Rookie sensation Jessie Holmes, who led for most of the race, capped off a commanding inaugural performance with an official time of 2:00:58. Holmes said it was a “mind blowing” experience to take the win, and pointed to his decision to quicken his pace and take the lead after Two Rivers as the strategic key to his victory. Asked what the highlight of the race was for him, the 33 year-old said getting to ascend Eagle Summit with defending champion Brent Sass was the thrill of a lifetime. Second place in the 300 went to Aliy Zirkle, and third to Joanna Jagow.
The day’s end finds most of the lead pack (Moore, Neff, and Hall) resting their teams at the Trout Creek cabin, while Brent Sass left that same location just before midnight to wind his way down the Yukon River the near 40 miles to the Eagle checkpoint. Hopkins and Kohnert in fifth and six are on the move toward Trout Creek, with the majority of the group enjoying the rustic comforts of historic Slaven’s Roadhouse.