Iditarod trumps Quest, says Gatt

Schnuelle was scheduled to leave an hour after Gatt, at 2:30 on Thursday. He would have been in fourth place. But now, he was leaving in third. "It's ironic because I probably have the best-looking dog team here in Dawson I've ever had," said Gatt...

Hans Gatt scratched in the Klondike.

“You bastard,” said Sebastian Schnuelle sailing out of the dog yard with his team.

He reached out to pull off Gatt’s hat.

“You bastard,” he said with a grin.

Schnuelle was scheduled to leave an hour after Gatt, at 2:30 on Thursday.

He would have been in fourth place.

But now, he was leaving in third.

“It’s ironic because I probably have the best-looking dog team here in Dawson I’ve ever had,” said Gatt, back at the checkpoint.

“But the Quest is not my priority.

“My focus is the Iditarod.”

After driving his team the 160-kilometres from the Scroggie Creek dog drop to Dawson, Gatt knew he was going to scratch.

They looked so good, he said.

“I knew I wanted this team at the Iditarod start line.

“And if I continued to run my team (the remaining 804 kilometres of the Quest) it would jeopardize my Iditarod efforts.

“So that’s why I dropped out with a great looking dog team.”

The Quest trail was good this year, he added.

And the jumble ice on the river was not a concern.

“I would love to run that trail all the way to Fairbanks,” he said.

“Those few ice crossings are nothing.

“But it was a strategic decision.”

The 800 kilometres Gatt’s team just ran was a perfectly timed training run for the Iditarod, he said.

The Alaskan race starts in just over two weeks, and if Gatt had continued on with the Quest, his team would not have had enough time to rest, he said.

Schnuelle, Martin Buser, Warren Palfrey and Hugh Neff are all running this years Quest and then racing in the Iditarod with Gatt.

The two frontrunners, Jon Little and William Kleedehn are not.

“I really hope William wins the race,” said Gatt.

“And I’m glad I’m not out there to interfere with that.

“It doesn’t matter to him if I’m out there or not,” he added.

It’s the first time Gatt has pulled out of a race.

It’s never easy to scratch, he said.

“It goes against my belief – I believe in finishing what I start.”

Contact Genesee Keevil at

gkeevil@yukon-news.com.

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