Two-time defending champion Allen Moore and Brent Sass are just two minutes apart at the final checkpoint of the Yukon Quest, setting the stage for a dramatic finish in the 1,600 kilometre sled dog race from Whitehorse, Yukon to Fairbanks, Alaska.
Sass, of Eureka, Alaska, had been enjoying a healthy lead since the race began in Whitehorse, Yukon, on February 7th. However, his lead over Moore, of Two Rivers, Alaska, had shrunk to just 16 kilometres by the time he arrived at Central checkpoint—256 kilometres from Fairbanks—on Sunday morning.
Sass and his 12 dogs left Central about two hours ahead of Moore as both traversed the long climb over Eagle Summit. He stopped for a break at the Mile 101 checkpoint, only to watch Moore arrive with his team of 13 dogs. Moore quickly fed the dogs, found some dry clothes, and left at 10:26 p.m., overtaking Sass, who left at 10:55.
However, by the time the two reached the race's final checkpoint at Two Rivers, Alaska, Moore's slim lead had all but disappeared. He arrived in Two Rivers, just 72 kilometres from the finish, at 5:36 a.m. Alaska Standard Time, with Sass hot on his heels at 5:38. Two Rivers serves as the last mandatory layover for the race, meaning Moore and Sass must wait eight hours before departing this afternoon.
Speaking to media, Sass called his run the hardest time he's ever had over Eagle Summit, while Moore said the pass was the best he's ever seen.
Last year's race was neck-and-neck between Moore and Sass until Sass suffered an accident and had to be airlifted to Whitehorse for medical attention.
Several hours behind the two leaders are Ed Hopkins from Tagish, YT, in third, followed closely by Hugh Neff of Tok, Alaska. Hopkins has moved up two places since Saturday, and is the only racer besides the two leaders to have made it past the Central checkpoint, leaving at 7:24 this morning.
Vancouver resident Damon Alexander Tedford has held his fifth place position through the Circle City checkpoint, maintaining his status as the race's top rookie participant, and is on his way to Central.
According to race organizers, Sass and Moore will be in Fairbanks Monday evening, should the two teams keep up their current pace.