Circle, AK - A decided “front -of -the –pack” is beginning to shake out on the Yukon Quest Trail. A fast trail means mushers are looking for ways to hold back dog teams.
The sky was still pitch black when Brent Sass sped into the Circle checkpoint, with a dog team that wasn’t ready to stop. As Sass walked up and down a line of dogs, he mumbled to his handler. ‘I’m fresh as I can be,’ he said. He told his handler, Steve Stoller he had gotten two hours of 'solid sleep' on the trail.
“Dogs are raring to go and he looks well rested and he’s pumped as usual!” said Stoller after Sass jumped on the runners and took off for the Yukon River nearly as quickly as he arrived.
Behind him, Allen Moore was prepping his dog team to leave. Moore says his team wants to run at full bore down the hard-packed trail. “The biggest challenge is to hold them back," says Moore. "It has been from the start. My foot’s been on the dragger brake because the conditions have been like this tale top here.” But Moore is quick to add that there’s still roughly 800 miles of trail ahead. “We’re still jockeying for position," he says.
Teams will continue to shake out as they get closer to Eagle. Cody Strathe is having a fast run up front, but he says it has more to do with his race plan than the competition. “But I knew that as my plan went on, more and more of the teams that push a little harder would catch up," says Strathe. "So, I think you’ll see I’ll drop bag a little bit as time goes on but hopefully I’ll remain towards the top.”
Even if dog teams want to keep moving, the weather may have slowed them down. Mushers have to carry straw out of Circle, because flights that were scheduled to deliver supplies to Slaven’s Cabin were unable to fly due to thick fog Sunday. Slaven’s usually serves as an unofficial dog drop and checkpoint along the Yukon River.