Whitehorse’s Hans Gatt, 51, pulled into Whitehorse Monday afternoon to capture his fourth Yukon Quest title in record time.
Welcomed to the finish line by throngs of Quest fans and media, the Austrian-born musher finished the 1,600 kilometre race from Fairbanks to Whitehorse in nine days, zero hours and 26 minutes, beating last year’s record run by Sebastian Schnuelle by 23 hours, 54 minutes.
“I had a race schedule for nine days and 10 hours or something, and I guess I beat that by quite a bit,” said Gatt. “If I had stuck to my race schedule, I wouldn’t have won; I would have been a couple hours behind.
“That just tells the story – that’s what tough competition does. I pushed it to the red line the whole way.
“I really appreciated the competition because it brings out the best in everyone.”
Gatt took the lead midway through the race, but was closely trailed by second-place finisher Lance Mackey of Alaska.
Running a nine-dog team, Gatt left the final checkpoint in Braeburn last night at 2:19 a.m., with Mackey just 34 minutes behind. Leaving the checkpoint just a half hour after Mackey was veteran musher Hugh Neff.
Gatt won three straight Quests between 2002 and 2004, having his winning spree broken by Mackey, who then went on a streak of his own, winning the next four. Although a veteran of the event, Gatt feels this year’s race was the hardest he has run.
“It’s so competitive over a 1,000 miles – it’s just insane, people have no idea,” said Gatt. “I’ve done it before, but the winds before were relatively easy.
“There’s no time for sleeping at all – you have to be prepared for not sleeping for four or five days. Otherwise you can’t make it. That adds to the stress factor of course.”
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