Brent Sass leading Michelle Phillips as Yukon Quest finish nears

Brent Sass parks his team after being the first musher to arrive at the Braeburn checkpoint on Feb. 10 during the 2020 Yukon Quest. Sass and his team arrived at 3:37 p.m. for their mandatory eight-hour layover before continuing the final 160 kilometres to the finish in Whitehorse. (John Hopkins-Hill/Yukon News)
Michelle Phillips gets checked in at the Braeburn checkpoint after arriving with her team in second position on Feb. 10 during the 2020 Yukon Quest. Phillips checked in at 4:14 p.m. for the mandatory eight-hour layover before continuing to the finish in Whitehorse. (John Hopkins-Hill/Yukon News)
Brent Sass tends to his team at the Braeburn checkpoint on Feb. 10 during the 2020 Yukon Quest. (John Hopkins-Hill/Yukon News)
Allen Moore and his team run the final stretch of trail on the Yukon River before reaching the Carmacks checkpoint on Feb. 10 during the 2020 Yukon Quest. (John Hopkins-Hill/Yukon News)
Allen Moore arrived at the Carmack checkpoint on Feb. 10 at 2:02 p.m. during the 2020 Yukon Quest. (John Hopkins-Hill/Yukon News)

The 37th Yukon Quest 1,000 Mile International Sled Dog Race will soon have a winner.

2019 winner Brent Sass is leading Tagish’s Michelle Phillips on the final stretch of trail from Braeburn to Whitehorse as of 10 a.m. on Feb. 11.

Sass reached the final checkpoint in Braeburn at 3:37 p.m. on Feb. 10 with 11 dogs on the line and left at 11:37 p.m. after sticking around for the mandatory eight-hour layover.

Phillips arrived in Braeburn at 4:14 p.m. on Feb. 10, also with 11 dogs on the line, and left at 12:14 a.m. on Feb. 11.

Sass is just under 50 kilometres from the finish line and Phillips is approximately 30 km behind Sass.

Snow began to fall as Sass and Phillips neared Braeburn, slowing down both teams.

“It slowed us down a lot,” said Sass while prepping his team for the eight-hour rest. “You had to sort of shut off the fact you were all of a sudden going two miles an hour slower and just focus on moving forward.”

Phillips had been the first musher out of Carmacks, leaving at midnight the night of Feb. 9 and taking more than an hour lead on Sass who left at 1:06 a.m. on Feb. 10.

Sass said he passed Phillips during the night and went to the end of Mandanna Lake before camping.

“I went all the way to the other side of the lake so I could look and see her maybe five miles in advance,” said Sass. “I got to my camping spot and I was hoping for three hours. At like two hours and 40 minutes, I saw the headlamp.”

He said he put booties on his team and packed up camp.

“She went by and 10 minutes later I took off,” said Sass. “She was up in front for a little while and it was pretty apparent I was going a little bit faster – not a lot, but a little bit – and we caught up to her.”

Sass said he wanted to ride behind Phillips because the two teams were still 50 km from the checkpoint, but that when Phillips stopped, he kept going.

“I went by and I said I’m not going to look back,” said Sass. “I just started ski poling and kicking like crazy.”

Further back in the pack, Cody Strathe reached Braeburn at 7:43 a.m. in third place with nine dogs on the line.

Three-time winner Allen Moore is currently on the trail between Carmacks and Braeburn, having left Carmacks at 10:03 p.m. on Feb. 10.

Moore said he stopped in Carmacks both to rest the team and himself, but also to keep pressure on Strathe ahead of him.

“If I made an extraordinary effort, then I’d probably lose two or three dogs doing it,” said Moore. “So I put the pressure on them. They don’t know what I’m doing. They’re out there saying when is he going to get here?”

That unknown, Moore said, can make it tough on a musher.

“Usually when that happens you don’t get near as much sleep if you’re a musher, when you’re worried about somebody coming up behind you,” said Moore. “It starts to wear on you.”

Moore said he was comfortable with where he was in the field.

“You get a point in the race where you’re not comfortable and trying to position yourself,” said Moore. “You get as far as you can get, when then you might as well relax a little bit and enjoy it.”

Torsten Kohnert and Ryne Olson are both also on the trail to Braeburn, having left Carmacks at 3:53 a.m. and 7:09 a.m. respectively on Feb. 11.

Rookie musher Nora Sjalin is on the trail from Pelly Crossing to Carmacks, as are Richie Beattie and Rob Cooke.

Pat Noddin is resting in Pelly Crossing and Red Lantern Olivia Webster is still making her way to Pelly Crossing.

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

Yukon Quest

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Brendan Hanley issued a public exposure warning on April 9. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
COVID-19 exposure notice issued for Air Canada flight

The Yukon’s Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Brendan Hanley issued a… Continue reading

Wyatt's World
WYATT’S WORLD

Wyatt’s World for April 9, 2021.… Continue reading

Landon Kulych, the city’s manager of parks and community development, is seen addressing city management and council about the potential e-bike bylaw earlier in 2021. First reading of the new bylaw will be considered by council April 13. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
E-bike bylaw considered

Class of bike would determine what trails they could travel

Wyatt's World
WYATT’S WORLD

Wyatt’s World for Arpil 7, 2021.… Continue reading

A new conservancy in northern B.C. is adjacent to Mount Edziza Provincial Park. (Courtesy BC Parks)
Ice Mountain Lands near Telegraph Creek, B.C., granted conservancy protection

The conservancy is the first step in a multi-year Tahltan Stewardship Initiative

Yukon RCMP reported a child pornography-related arrest on April 1. (Phil McLachlan/Black Press file)
Whitehorse man arrested on child pornography charges

The 43-year-old was charged with possession of child pornography and making child pornography

Team Yukon athletes wave flags at the 2012 Arctic Winter Games opening ceremony in Whitehorse. The postponed 2022 event in Wood Buffalo, Alta., has been rescheduled for Jan. 29 to Feb. 4, 2023. (Justin Kennedy/Yukon News file)
New dates set for Arctic Winter Games

Wood Buffalo, Alta. will host event Jan. 29 to Feb. 4, 2023

Victoria Gold Corp. has contributed $1 million to the First Nation of Na-cho Nyak Dun after six months of production at the Eagle Gold Mine. (Submitted/Victoria Gold Corp.)
Victoria Gold contributes $1 million to First Nation of Na-cho Nyak Dun

Victoria Gold signed a Comprehensive Cooperation and Benefits Agreement in 2011

Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Brendan Hanley speaks to media in Whitehorse on October 30, 2020. Hanley is now encouraging Yukon to continue following health regulations, noting it could still be some time before changes to restrictions are made. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
No active COVID cases in Yukon

Hanley highlights concerns over variants, encourages vaccinations

Currie Dixon, Kate White and Sandy Silver participated in an all-leaders debate on April 1, which was streamed on Zoom and Facebook live. (Facebook)
Party leaders debate priorities at First Nations candidates forum

Sandy Silver, Currie Dixon and Kate White were present at the debate on April 1

Letters to the editor
Today’s mailbox: Evironment concerns

Letters to the editor published April 1

Most Read