The final stretch of the Yukon Quest is shaping up to be a dogged fight between the first two mushers out of the gate.
Brent Sass and two-time defending champion Allen Moore arrived at Two Rivers, the 13th and final checkpoint, only two minutes apart earlier this morning.
With only 45 miles (72 kilometres) to go in the 1000-mile race, Moore has 13 dogs left while Sass has 12.
Moore has made up considerable ground on his rival since the race began on Feb. 7.
Sass, in his ninth Quest, reached Dawson City on Feb. 10 with a substantial six-hour lead over Moore.
But Sass’s lead was cut to 30 miles (48 kilometres) by the time he reached the Eagle checkpoint on Thursday, following a scary encounter with a moose.
It nearly stomped on one of his lead dogs, but fortunately the dogs spread out.
“I looked him right in the eye and he just went right on by,” Sass said in a news release.
Last night, Moore briefly overtook Sass after a strong run over the Eagle Summit.
Two Rivers is the final mandatory layover for the mushers, at eight hours.
Race organizers anticipate the winner to cross the finish line around midnight tonight, if the current pace is kept, they announced on Twitter this morning.
Tagish resident Ed Hopkins, the top Yukoner, was in third place and about 60 miles (96 kilometres) away from the front-runners as of this morning.
Whitehorse’s Normand Casavant and Dawson City’s Brian Wilmshurst were in sixth and ninth place, respectively, this morning.
Only 16 of the original field of 26 mushers are left, after two more scratched on Saturday.
Both Joar Leifseth Ulsom and Cody Strathe, who were in fourth and sixth place respectively, decided to call it a day at the Eagle checkpoint, citing the well-being of their dogs.
This year’s Quest saw five teams scratch in the first three days of the race.
It’s the most to scratch before the second half of the race since 2011.
Musher Rolland Trowbridge was withdrawn from the race after asking for outside help.
Contact Myles Dolphin at firstname.lastname@example.org