Allen Moore is nipping at the heels of frontrunner Hugh Neff in the Yukon Quest as of Friday morning.
The two Alaskans, who have about a three-hour lead over current third place’s Jake Berkowitz of Big Lake, Alaska, reached the Eagle checkpoint late Thursday evening.
Moore is closing the gap on defending champ Neff of Fairbanks. Neff arrived at the Dawson City checkpoint – the halfway point of the race – two hours before Moore of Two Rivers.
That lead shrunk to 35 minutes by Eagle, Alaska.
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Meanwhile, Yukon’s leader, Whitehorse’s Susan Rogan, set off from Dawson at 4:29 a.m. Friday morning following the 40-hour mandatory layover.
Just making it to Dawson was surreal for the Quest rookie, who is currently in eighth place.
“Coming into Dawson City with a dogsled team from Whitehorse seems kind of weird this day and age,” said Rogan. “It’s kind of neat that you can run a trail all the way from Whitehorse to Dawson.
“There’s a lot of support along the way – the veterinarians and the volunteers. It would take a lot more than four days if you had to take care of yourself.”
Rogan, who is the only rookie out of five Yukoners in the race, has partner Hans Gatt, a four-time Quest champion, helping as her handler.
Whitehorse’s Normand Casavant was next out of Dawson at 6:02 a.m.
Tagish’s Ed Hopkins, who is in his sixth Quest, is currently in 12th place and set off from Dawson at 8:18 a.m.
All remaining teams have reached Dawson, including Carcross’s Crispin Studer in 13th and Dawson’s Brian Wilmshurst in 17th.
Rogan, who dropped two of her 14 dogs in Dawson – but neither because of injury – says she has to speed herself up, not her dogs.
“I’ll try to be a little quicker with myself,” said Rogan. “I take forever to get my team together at checkpoints. I stop a lot on the trail. What should be a two-minute stop is a 10-minute stop.
“But I’m just going to keep doing what I’m doing. I’m really happy with my dogs – there isn’t even a crack in their footpads. Usually you have a few foot injuries and things like that. There’s nothing. There’s no digestive problems. Everything is looking good.”
“I don’t see the point in trying to make up time on people and trash your team doing it,” she added.
The Quest had its first fatality since 2011 on Thursday. A dog belonging to Berkowitz passed away while under the care of a veterinarian on Thursday. A necropsy was performed and the cause of death was intestinal volvulus with bowel infarction, said a Quest release.
Three mushers have scratched from the race so far, including four-time champ Lance Mackey of Fairbanks, who withdrew from the race Thursday morning, citing the well-being of his dogs.
Wasilla, Alaska’s Kelley Griffin scratched at Dawson on Wednesday and Fairbanks’ Ed Abrahamson scratched in Carmacks on Monday.
On Thursday, Christina Traverse of Fort McMurray was withdrawn from the Quest after requesting assistance through her SPOT tracker device.
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