The top two teams in this year’s Yukon Quest are the same as last year, but in a different order.
Allen Moore of Two Rivers, Alaska, who placed second in 2012, won this year’s Quest on Monday in Fairbanks.
Moore crossed the finish line at 6:54 a.m., one hour and 16 minutes ahead of defending champion Hugh Neff of Fairbanks.
“It’s great when a plan comes together,” said Moore, who finished with a time of eight days, 18 hours and 57 minutes.
Finishing first is “what our ultimate goal has always been,” said Moore, 55. “So it’s great to have a goal like a 1,000-mile race and win it.”
With the win, Moore pockets a cheque for $18,930. He also gets redemption after losing to Neff by just 26 seconds last year.
“He was due,” said Neff, 45. “The whole race, in a bizarre way, I was hoping he would win because I knew he was pretty shook-up after what happened last year.”
This year, after trailing Neff out of Dawson, Moore caught him between the Central checkpoint and Mile 101. Moore left Mile 101 just four minutes up from Neff on Sunday.
“I think the downfall of Hugh was that he didn’t rest enough in Circle (City checkpoint),” said Moore. “We both came in together and we both just did an eight-plus hour run. I actually went to sleep, he saw me asleep and he decided to get up and leave and do a 75- to 85-mile run with very little rest.
“When I woke up and left I left about two and a half hours after him. I made up an hour and a half at run speed.
“I think that was the pivotal point in the race… After that he was never as fast.”
At the Mile 101 dog drop, “I knew Allen was going to win,” said Neff. “His dogs were just lunging at their lines and looking really good.”
Neff, who takes home $13,520 for placing second, was the first into Dawson City at the halfway point of the race. As the first musher to Dawson, Neff received a prize of four ounces of gold valued at $6,700.
“He’s a buddy of mine and I’m glad,” said Neff of Moore. “After winning the gold in Dawson, I still end up making more money than him, so I’m good with that.
“He had the team to beat, which is why I went for the gold in Dawson,” he added. “He had a more experienced crew that did the Iditarod as well as this race. Half of my dogs were newbies this year. For seven of my dogs it was their first Quest.
“I just can’t believe I came in second, to tell you the truth.”
At press time on Monday, Eureka, Alaska’s Brent Sass was in third in front of Big Lake, Alaska’s Jake Berkowitz in fourth.
Whitehorse’s Normand Casavant is leading the charge for Yukoners in seventh place. Whitehorse’s Susan Rogan, who was the first Yukoner to reach Dawson, is in ninth place. Tagish’s Ed Hopkins is in 12th, Carcross’ Crispin Studer is in 13th and Dawson’s Brian Wilmshurst is in 17th.
At a mushers meeting in Dawson at the end of last week, teams were warned that the trail leaving Dawson was in terrible shape because of nasty weather.
Moore and Neff didn’t see what all the hubbub was about.
“It was just the opposite,” said Moore. “I think the deal was, when they broke it out it was bad because it was real soft and all their machines were getting stuck. But by the time we got there it was all hard… When we went it was great.”
“It was fine,” said Neff. “It might have been the worst for… the trailbreakers, but it was fine for the mushers.”
Moore will be competing in his seventh Iditarod at the start of next month. His best finish was 24th in 2011.
Neff and two of his leaders will be flying to Norway next week to compete in a 700-mile race called the Finnmarksloven.
“I’m one of those guys who race every year, and I’m not doing it as a business, I’m doing it because I love it,” said Neff. “I can’t wait to get out, explore and see another part of the world.”
Contact Tom Patrick at firstname.lastname@example.org