Half the 2020 Yukon Quest field reaches Dawson City

Cody Strathe and his team arrive at the Dawson City checkpoint during the 2020 Yukon Quest on Feb. 6. Strathe was the third musher to arrive, checking in at 12:18 p.m. (John Hopkins-Hill/Yukon News)
Two Cody Strathe’s dogs wait impatiently to continue to the dog yard after arriving a the Dawson City checkpoint on Feb. 6 during the 2020 Yukon Quest. (John Hopkins-Hill/Yukon News)
Allen Moore shares a word with a member of his team after reaching the Dawon City checkpoint on Feb. 6 during the 2020 Yukon Quest. Moore is in fourth place after reaching the checkpoint at 12:55 p.m. (John Hopkins-Hill/Yukon News)
One of Allen Moore’s dogs digs into a snack after reaching the Dawson City checkpoint on Feb. 6 during the Yukon Quest. The dog is wearing a fox tail, a piece of fur worn around a male dog’s underbelly to protect its genitals from wind and frostbite. (John Hopkins-Hill/Yukon News)
Allen Moore catches a ride out of the Dawson City checkpoint to the dog yard while his wife and 2000 Yukon Quest winner Aliy Zirkle controls the sled on Feb. 6 during the 2020 Yukon Quest. (John Hopkins-Hill/Yukon News)
Torsten Kohnert arrives at the Dawson City checkpoint on Feb. 6 during the 2020 Yukon Quest. Kohnert was the fifth musher into Dawson, arriving at 9:01 p.m. (John Hopkins-Hill/Yukon News)
Ryne Olson arrives at the Dawson City checkpoint with her dog Elmer poking out of her sled on Feb. 6 during the 2020 Yukon Quest. Olson arrived at 10:20 p.m. in sixth place. (John Hopkins-Hill/Yukon News)

DAWSON CITY

It was a busy day for the Yukon Quest 1,000 Mile International Sled Dog Race on Feb. 6, as nearly half the field arrived at the Dawson City checkpoint and started the mandatory 36-hour layover.

2019 Quest winner Brent Sass was the first musher to reach Dawson, checking in at 5:43 a.m. with 12 dogs on the line.

“It’s always fun to be back in Dawson,” said Sass. “The dogs did really well. The trail has been a Quest trail — lots of breaking trail, lots of blown-in trail — and the dogs have done a really good job.”

Sass said he didn’t have any particular issues on American Summit, the third of four major peaks teams must climb during the race.

“It was easy,” said Sass. “It was some sidehill and it was windy, but we didn’t have any issue at all with the dogs. … I actually was waiting for the tough stuff and then we came around and we were already going downhill. I was like, ‘Oh, I guess we went through the tough stuff.’”

Sass said the first thing he’ll be doing in Dawson is getting some food and getting ready for the second half of the race and the finish in Whitehorse.

“I’ve got a really amazing crew here to work on the dogs,” said Sass. “I’m just thinking about the second half already.”

It was Tagish’s Michelle Phillips who was next to arrive. She reached the checkpoint at 6:54 a.m.

She said the run in from Eagle, Alaska, went well.

“I’m feeling pretty good,” said Phillips. “It was a lot better than I expected on American Summit. I expected it to be more windy. … It was blowing a bit on the river here — the trail was a little slow, but pretty good.”

Her team had to break quite a bit of trail, she said, thanks to the snow and wind.

“Pretty much leaving Circle to Eagle there was a lot of snow, a lot of wind,” said Phillips. “Quite a few windstorms and the dogs had to break trail a lot.”

Phillips arrived with 12 dogs after having dropped one, Zeppelin, in Eagle.

“He got a little sick earlier on, so he was a little thin,” said Phillips. “I was concerned about him being too thin so I just dropped him. He’s young and thin, so I didn’t think he needed to keep going.”

Next to arrive was veteran musher Cody Strathe at 12:18 p.m.

Strathe said the run in took longer than he remembered.

“I was getting a little annoyed there at the end because it seemed like it was taking forver, but we made it,” said Strathe. “The dogs are happy.”

He said the conditions meant mental adjustments had to be made.

“It’s taking us a lot more time to do all these runs,” said Strathe. “So 50 mile usually takes six or seven hours and it’s taking us longer, so it’s just harder to change your brain to think that everything takes so much longer.”

Shortly after Strathe arrived, three-time winner Allen Moore reached Dawson at 12:55 p.m.

Moore also said the run in was slower than expected.

“It seems like the whole trip on the (Yukon River) all the way back where we got on it was windy,” said Moore. “Wind in your face and wind blown – so it was slow.”

He said he’s won the race after getting to Dawson fourth before, but that Brent was the favourite.

“It’s doable,” said Moore. “Something might have to happen — and it’s a dog race and something always happens — so it’s a possibility.”

Torsten Kohnert was next into the checkpoint at 9:01 p.m.

He said his young team has been running well and he’s happy to be in the top five so far.

“If I can keep that position, I’m pretty happy,” said Kohnert. “It’s a young team … so if they can maintain that position I’m pretty happy with that.”

The smaller field, he said, has made for a slightly different race experience.

“You don’t see anybody on teh trail,” said Kohnert. “You don’t realize it really. It’s not very crowded in checkpoints.”

After Kohnert, Ryne Olson was next to arrive. She checked in at 10:20 p.m.

Olson said her team saw a lot of wildlife on the run in, including caribou.

“The team loved it,” said Olson. “They thought it was great fun to chase them along the river. If anything, it got them all fired up.”

When Olson arrived, her dog Elmer was riding in the sled basket. She said he led most of the race and got to catch a ride on her last run.

“He slept the whole way,” said Olson. “And I don’t think he minded at all.”

Following Olson’s arrival there was a lull of more than eight hours before rookie musher Nora Sjalin arrived at 6:59 a.m. on Feb. 7.

As of 9 a.m., mushers Richie Beattie and Rob Cooke are on the way into Dawson from the Clinton Creek hospitality stop as is Pat Noddin just under 26 kilometres behind.

Chase Tingle and his team are resting at the Clinton Creek hospitality stop, while Dave Dalton and Red Lantern Olivia Webster are under 20 km out.

Race leader Brent Sass will be eligible to leave Dawson at 5:43 p.m. on Feb. 7 to begin the 338-km journey to the next checkpoint in Pelly Crossing.

Contact John Hopkins-Hill at

john.hopkinshill@yukon-news.com

Yukon Quest

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