Fairbanks, AK - Champion distance musher Jeff King of Denali plans to return to the Yukon Quest International Sled Dog Race next February. It’s been a quarter century since he’s run that race. in 2015, he’ll face a three-time defending champion, a rule change regarding rest times and mandatory stops and number of young, upcoming mushers.
It’s been 25 year’s since Jeff King has driven a dog team on the 1000 mile trail between Fairbanks and Whitehorse. King announced via Facebook he plans to make a comeback in February.
“I’m looking forward to seeing and feeling and smelling the same things that are very poignant in my memory," he says. "Don’t get me wrong I’ve got great team and it goes fast. You give us a trail and it will be fun to spar with the best of the Yukon Quest mushers.”
King is better known for his four Iditarod championships. Last year, he nearly claimed a fifth win, but the 59-year old was thwarted by bad weather and poor trail conditions which took him out of the race less than 30 miles from the finish line. He went on to set a race record in the the 2014 Kobuk 440.
King says he’s using last year’s experience as motivation for the upcoming season.
“It absolutely is true," says King. "I trained before last year’s Iditarod mimicking the Yukon Quest on the Denali Highway., I put on 1200 miles of training and I am aware that when done correctly, I now am on board with the fact that it could benefit the team the following month.”
King plans to run both of Alaska’s 1000 mile sled dog races next year, but he says the Quest won’t just be a training run.
“It isn’t a joy ride unless I get dusted right off the get-go, which I highly doubt,” he says.
King won the Quest back in 1989. He says he’s interested to see how the trail has changed since he last drove a team on the trail back in 1990. [In Fairbanks, I’m Emily Schwing]