Fourteen years after becoming the first woman to win the Yukon Quest 1,000, Aliy Zirkle has added the Yukon Quest 300 to her list of wins.
The 44-year-old of Two Rivers, Alaska, won the 300-mile race for her first time on Monday in Central, Alaska.
“I’m a little bit chilled but I have a smile on my face,” said Zirkle from the finish line Monday evening.
“It’s fantastic, I love this trail. The people put so much time and effort into making the Yukon Quest what it is, they really do it for a good reason because the race is fantastic and the trail was fantastic.”
Zirkle completed the route through Two Rivers, Mile 101, Central, to Circle City and back to Central, in 51 hours and 28 minutes.
The win helps make up for a heartbreaking close loss in last year’s Quest 300. Zirkle placed second to Michelle Phillips of Tagish, Yukon by just eight seconds.
“It was really fun because it was, quote, on my home turf,” said Zirkle. “I mushed right by my kennel the first day, right by all the local stores in my area. It’s nice to be in a local area and then go north of there and go over two of the most amazing summits on the Yukon Quest, the Rosebud and Eagle summit, in relatively good weather, and then go on Birch Creek, which is notorious for 50-below or serious overflow, and we were able to avoid both of those things.
“I’ll tell you, I have a pretty big smile on my face.”
Fellow Two Rivers musher Chase Tingle took second with a time of 53 hours and 22 minutes.
Chistochina, Alaska’s Heidi Sutter finished third in 54 hours and 21 minutes.
Whitehorse’s Sebastian Schnuelle, another past Quest 1,000 champ, crossed the finish line in 56 hours, 41 minutes for fourth. Schnuelle, 44, was the only Yukoner in the race.
“I knew there were two teams in contention with me, so for my last camp spot I camped pretty close to the trail and when those teams went by I bootied my dogs and left,” said Zirkle. “I knew I was faster than them and I would catch them and I did.”
Sixteen teams began the race with seven scratching.
Zirkle, who is registered for the Iditarod next month, has no time to kick back and enjoy the win.
She is off to Dawson City to meet with her husband Allen Moore, who is among the front-runners in the 1,000-mile Quest. Moore is the defending Quest 1,000 champ.
“The first thing I’m going to do is go over to Dawson, and then Pelly, Carmacks and Braeburn, where my husband is racing the Yukon Quest 1,000,” said Zirkle. “That’s my next priority. Hopefully I can head over there pretty soon and watch his team come in to Whitehorse at the finish.”
Zirkle placed second in Alaska’s Iditarod the last two years.
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