The top three mushers in the 2018 Yukon Quest have now crossed the finish line in the 1000-mile international sled dog race.
Race Marshal Doug Harris was at the line in downtown Whitehorse as third-place finisher Laura Neese arrived just before 5:00 PST this afternoon:
There’s lots of people because it’s just after work here, around 5 o’clock. And they have a sliding park, so there’s some families playing on that. So there’s quite a group of people here. They gave Laura a very nice welcome.
According to the leaderboard, Neese finished about nine hours behind champion Allen Moore, who arrived into Whitehorse with a full team of 14 dogs this morning at around 8:00 PST. The 60-year-old from Two Rivers takes his third Quest win this year. He placed first in 2013 and 2014, and has been in the top three every year since 2012.
Last year’s champion Matt Hall finished around 2:45 PST this afternoon. The 26-year-old, also from Two Rivers, had been in second position since Pelly Crossing.
42-year-old Paige Drobny had held second position for much of the race, but this morning she became the 10th musher to scratch this year. She returned to Carmacks around 11:00 am PST after attempting to reach Braeburn overnight. She cited a “desire to keep her team happy and healthy,” according to a press release.
Also scratching this year were 2016 champion Hugh Neff and Kotzebue musher Katherine Keith, making for the highest scratch count of the past several years. Two mushers, Ike Underwood and Jason Campeau, were also withdrawn after pressing the help button on their race tracker. In all, nearly half of the mushers who began the race did not finish.
Race Marhsal Harris says the weather on the middle portion of the race was likely a factor.
The cold took a toll, and some of the mushers felt their dogs lost a little bit of weight coming into Dawson, and they chose not to go on because of that.
But Harris says mushers and trailbreakers have reported good conditions for the 11 mushers still on the trail.
Right after Allen got in, it was snowing quite heavily here, and then it started to sleet, and the wind was blowing, but that only lasted about 20 minutes, and now it’s nice and calm. A little warmer than we’d like it, but being warmer there’s larger crowds at the finish. But as far as for the dogs, now that the two teams have been in, there will be a well-marked trail for them across the lake, so it should be good.
Among the mushers still closing in on Whitehorse is 21-year-old rookie Vejborn Aisha Reitan, who left Braeburn around 6:00 PST this morning in fourth position, according to the leaderboard. He’s followed by Canadian Quest veteran Ed Hopkins, who left Braeburn at 8:40 PST this morning.
Stay tuned to KNOM for coverage of the 2018 Iron Dog snowmachine race, which begins at 11:00 a.m. this Sunday, Feb. 18th.
Image at top: The 2005 Yukon Quest start in Whitehorse, Yukon (Photo: Dan Kaduce, creative commons)