Nenana, Alaska’s Jessie Holmes entered the Yukon Quest 300 with a specific and lofty objective.
He entered it to win it. And he did just that.
“When I came here, I came with the goal to win the race,” said Holmes. “I didn’t talk about it with anyone other than my handlers, but I wanted to win the race because I thought my dogs had the potential. They’re young and for most of them it’s their first 300-mile race, but I came in with a strategy that would give me an opportunity to be towards the front: to keep short rests … That’s how I trained and set the team up.”
The 33-year-old race rookie completed the 300-mile (483-kilometre) race from Fairbanks to Central, Alaska with a total time of two days and 10 minutes – the fastest total time in years.
He reached the finish in Central at 3:43 p.m. on Monday. 2014 champ Aliy Zirkle of Two Rivers, Alaska – the only woman to win the Yukon Quest 1,000 – placed second at 4:39 p.m.
Fairbanks race rookie Joanna Jagow crossed the first at 6:19 p.m. for third.
Holmes was first to reach the final checkpoint in Circle, about an hour and a half ahead of Zirkle.
“I saw her come in and I thought, I don’t know what she’s going to do, so might rest here or go after me, so I’d better not stay here too long,” said Holmes. “I was like, this is my opportunity and if I don’t go for it now I’m going to regret it the rest of the year.”
“I tried not to look over my shoulder because I realized I just had to run my own race,” he added.
Holmes dropped five dogs during the race and reached the finish with only seven, the least of any of the top 12 finishers. This week’s race was just his third 300-mile event and he was using it as preparation for running whole shebang – the 1,000-mile Quest – next year.
“I plan to come back next week and train going over Eagle summit going the other way to prepare for next year,” said Holmes.
“I’m jazzed up and energized. I’m not even tired from this; I feel energized.”
Ontario’s Joshua Skerritt – another rookie – was the top Canadian in the 300, placing fifth at 10:52 p.m. on Monday.
Mendenhall’s Olaf Thurau was the top Yukoner, finishing early Tuesday for ninth.
Teams in the 33rd annual Yukon Quest 1,000-mile race will begin to reach Dawson City, the race’s halfway point, mid-day Wednesday.
At press time Wednesday morning, defending champ Brent Sass was at the front of the pack. The 36-year-old of Eureka, Alaska, left the Clinton Creek checkpoint with an hour and a half lead over second place’s Allen Moore, the 2013 and 2014 champ from Two Rivers.
Sass had a 24-kilometre lead over Moore at last check.
2012 champ Hugh Neff of Tok, Alaska was just behind Moore in third and Two Rivers’ Matt Hall in fourth.
10 Mile’s Ed Hopkins was the leading Yukoner in fifth place. Hopkins, 51, placed third last year for his best finish to date.
As for the other Yukoners: Whitehorse’s Yuka Honda was in 10th; Mendenhall’s Luc Tweddell 15th; Whitehorse’s Rob Cooke in 17th; and Mendenhall’s Gaetan Pierrard in 18th.
With the scratch of American J. Jay Levy on Sunday, 22 teams remain in the 1,600-kilometre race from Fairbanks to Whitehorse.
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