Brent Sass speaks to reporters after reaching the Dawson City checkpoint on Feb. 5 during the 2019 Yukon Quest. Sass was the first musher to arrive in Dawson and has the lead going into the 36-hour mandatory layover. (John Hopkins-Hill/Yukon News)

Brent Sass is first to reach Dawson City in 2019 Yukon Quest

“I had no intention to be in here first, but here we are”

The Yukon Quest continues on Feb. 5 as the first mushers arrive in Dawson City after a long, lonely run from Pelly Crossing.

Brent Sass was the first to arrive in Dawson, reaching the checkpoint at 11:30 a.m., followed by Canadians Michelle Phillips and Hans Gatt, and 2018 winner Allen Moore by 12:30 p.m.

Sass said he had a schedule going into the race and that he and his team are feeling good.

“I had no intention to be in here first, but here we are,” said Sass. “The dogs are doing great. They’ve really been able to maintain their speed and they’ve been resting longer.”

He said adding dogs in Pelly Crossing also helped with his fast time.

“That really helped. No doubt having four brand new dogs when you get to Pelly and shoot out of there, it definitely lifted the spirits of the team,” said Sass.

Sass is now in position to win the Dawson Award — two ounces of Klondike placer gold given to the first musher into Dawson who goes on to complete the race.

While the lead group of teams left Pelly Crossing bound for Dawson via the Stepping Stone hospitality stop and the Scroggie Creek dog drop in the early hours of Feb. 4, the majority of the field filtered out back onto the trail as the day wore on.

Moore, Gatt and Sass were back in front just before noon, racing close together until they split at Scroggie Creek and Sass continued further down the trail before resting.

Philips and Denis Tremblay reached Scroggie Creek at approximately 7 p.m., and Phillips retook the lead when she kept going past the dog drop.

Yukoner Nathaniel Hamlyn left Pelly Crossing at 5:57 p.m., while Dawson City’s Brian Wilmshurst and Jason Biasetti started their journeys between 10 a.m. and 11 a.m.

Rob Cooke left Pelly Crossing at 11:46 a.m. and as for strategy, Cooke said he had the intention of splitting the trip to Dawson City into four 50-mile runs.

He said he planned to mush past Stepping Stone and climb up in elevation to a particular area.

“I know there is a spot with some firewood and some warmer air, so I’ll camp there,” said Cooke, adding he planned to rest in Scroggie Creek and again just before the Indian River Bridge.

“Then into Dawson hopefully on Wednesday with any luck,” he said.

All but two mushers managed to leave for Dawson by the end of Feb. 4, but Lisbet Norris and Remy Leduc were on the way to Dawson by 1:06 a.m. and 5:41 a.m. respectively on Feb. 5.

Contact John Hopkins-Hill at john.hopkinshill@yukon-news.com

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