Carmacks, YK - Teams are edging closer to the finish line in this year’s Yukon Quest, but they may not get there without at least a little bit of racing. Two major runs and a mandatory rest are all that separates Cody Strathe and Matt Hall from the finish line Takhini Hot Springs.
When his team was resting in Dawson City, Cody Strathe said he wouldn’t give up his lead on Matt Hall easily. But a day later, Strathe decided to drop his main leader, Elmer at the Scroggie Creek Dog Drop.
“He could have kept going, but just wanted to make sure he was in good health," says Strathe, "So I left him behind.”
Strathe says he isn’t necessarily gunning for a top finish and with Matt Hall in front and two veterans - John Schandelmeier and Ken Anderson – coming from behind, racing might be tough. "It’s just kind of how it works, you either have to move or be caught.”
Strathe isn’t willing to push his dogs too hard, but he says he will be ready for anything the trail might throw at him. “They may need to camp so I’m going to go out there and take the stuff I need and if not, then we’ll go all the way through, we’ll see what happens,” he says.
“I plan to run straight through," says Matt Hall, "but I’m going to carry enough stuff to camp if I need to.”
That’s Rookie Matt Hall. His plan is similar to Strathe’s Hall says with two major runs before the finish line, he’s also prepared for almost anything. He might even be willing to race, if the opportunity arises and his dogs are willing.
“It’s going to be up for the dogs. It’s not really my call," says Hall. "If they’re game for it then yes, but if they’re not happy about it or not looking good, then no, it’s their call. They’re the ones who’ve been the superstars to get me here.”
Hall is likely to become this year’s Rookie of the Year. He says his dog team has plenty of gas in the tank, but he also knows Cody Strathe’s team has plenty of extra rest. It’s anybody’s guess how third and fourth place might shake out.