Brent Sass is the 2019 Yukon Quest winner after reaching the finish line at the Morris Thompson Cultural and Visitors Center in Fairbanks, Alaska, just before 1 p.m. local time on Feb. 11 with a full team of 14 dogs.
Leading him into the finish line were Sluice and Morello.
Eleven of his 14 dogs were rookies, while the other three were part of his 2015 winning team.
“They’re definitely not rookies anymore,” said Sass. “I can’t wait until next year. They’re really going to have the knowledge and the know-how. They never hesitated a bit … they just kept getting faster.”
From Eureka, Alaska, Sass has won the Quest once previously in 2015. This is his 12th year running the race.
“I think I really tried to just ignore my competitors and not really care about anybody,” said Sass. “I jumped off the ice on Birch Creek there and had a really solid run. I figured it was cold out, and there was very little chance of anybody blowing through Central, so I gambled. It just puts a few more miles on you before you go over Eagle Summit, which is always a test.”
He said this race was extra special because of his dog Jeep, who was a sprint dog for one of his good friends – Joee Redington – before Redington died.
“He was a sprint dog, and Joee always said when we were chatting and hanging out, that this dog right here could run a distance race,” said Sass. “After Joee passed away, I bought Jeep … and said, ‘you’re going to be a distance dog.’ I trained him for two season and he was phenomenal. I mean, he led over 500 miles of the race. He led over American Summit in a windstorm. … I know Joee’s spirit was out there with me the whole way smiling down on us.”
Sass drew bib number three and was the third musher to start the race, leaving the start line in Whitehorse at 11:06 a.m. on Feb. 2 with nine dogs.
He was sixth to arrive in Braeburn, just under two and a half hours behind early leader Hans Gatt.
Following the trucking from Braeburn, Sass was sixth to leave Carmacks when he left at 12:03 p.m. on Feb. 3 after adding a dog.
Sass was the seventh musher into Pelly Crossing, but the third out after electing to only stop long enough to add four dogs. He left Pelly at 23:19 p.m. on Feb.3, nearly two hours behind 2018 winner Allen Moore.
When mushers arrived in Dawson City for the 36-hour layover, it was Sass leading the way. Sass reached the checkpoint at 11:24 a.m. on Feb. 5 with a 30 minute lead on Michelle Phillips.
As the first musher to reach Dawson and finish the race, Sass wins the Dawson Award — two ounces of Klondike placer gold. Sass has previously won the award in 2015 and 2016.
Sass left Dawson at 11:24 p.m. on Feb. 6.
From Dawson, mushers travelled across the border to Eagle, Alaska, and Sass was third to reach the checkpoint. He arrived 37 minutes behind Moore at 11:35 p.m. on Feb. 7.
Sass and Moore arrived within 15 minutes of each other at the Circle City, Alaska, checkpoint on Feb. 9. Moore checked in at 9:26 a.m. and Sass was right behind at 9:37 a.m.
Sass took the lead for good between Circle and Central, Alaska, arriving at Central at 4:10 a.m. on Feb. 10 before continuing on almost immediately.
He reached Mile 101 after climbing Eagle Summit at 8:46 a.m. on Feb. 10 and the final checkpoint in Two Rivers, Alaska, at 6:53 p.m. on Feb. 10. Moore arrived later that evening at 8:32 p.m.
After the final mandatory eight hour layover, Sass left for the finish line at 2:53 a.m. while Moore was only able to leave at 4:32 a.m.
Contact John Hopkins-Hill at email@example.com