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02-05-24 Yukon Quest Update

Brent Sass preparing to leave the Circle checkpoint on Feb. 5.
Dan Bross
Brent Sass preparing to leave the Circle checkpoint on Feb. 5.

Brent Sass is on track to win his sixth Quest race this morning.

Before leaving the Quest 300's final checkpoint at Circle City after 1:00 AM, Brent Sass reflected on the team that put him solidly in the lead.

"Got all 14 here, and leavin' with all 14, so that's, uh, I'm pretty excited about that."

From Circle, it's eighty-six miles back over winding Birch Creek to the finish line in Central.

"Alright, let's do it. Woo woo. Go, go, go. Go!"

Sass built a four plus hour lead over the competition with a team that's run strong in the extreme cold.

"Cold is not necessarily the speediest conditions, but the dogs like the cold. For their systems and stuff, this is great. I have furry dogs; they're, they're totally fine with running in this."

Sass says he's careful to make sure the dogs are additionally protected with jackets and getting the calories they need to run in the cold.

"Keeping the dogs healthy in this weather is the number one thing, you know, there's so many extra issues to worry about when it's this cold out. So, but yeah, I've been able to stay on top of it and the dogs are looking strong."

Sass, who is racing on a brand new super-light sled, reported no trouble with the notoriously steep and bumpy descent of Eagle Summit Sunday.

"Pretty routine Eagle Summit crossing."

But it didn't go as well for some of the racers to follow. Second place musher, Eddie Burke, says the windblown snow was too hard for effective braking.

"So I was having to gee and haw my dogs off into the powder because if I didn't, I felt like I was on a death ride."

Burke says his dogs got tangled up several times coming off the summit, and after the trail finally flattened out, he went into some overflow.

"I got completely soaked. I was covered in ice when I, uh, got in here. Gear's froze up — everything. Um, so it wasn't comfortable."

Another front-running musher, Deke Naaktgeboren also had some trouble coming down Eagle Summit.

"Usually it's kind of like you're falling into a pillow. And uh, this year it was really, really windblown. And, uh, you start hitting these wind bumps and I crashed for the first time out of eight attempts and, uh, you know, and then the dogs are like dragging you down the hill and, you know, it's a little scary. But we got through it and, yeah, it's a little more challenging this year for sure."

Farther back in the pack, two mushers dropped out of Quest races yesterday. Race Marshal Doug Grilliot says Steve Humes and Ashley Franklin were assisted off the trail and they were moving slowly.

"So, our trail crew, two of our trail breakers went out to do a wellness check on 'em and see how they were doing. And it was determined at that time that they wanted to leave the race. So there was a good takeout point at Mile 94 on the Steese Highway, and we were able to get them out."

Also yesterday, Quest 200 musher Jody Potts-Joseph was withdrawn from the race. Grilliot says Potts-Joseph activated a help button on her spot, GPS Tracker, and a rescue crew was dispatched but could not locate her.

"Jody showed up at Central Checkpoint and was informed at that time that she was going to be withdrawn. Our rules are very, very clear about usage of the spot."

Grilliot says Potts-Joseph said she originally called for assistance because of open water. But she later negotiated the obstacle.