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Field of ’19 Quest Includes Promising Newcomers

A group of sled dogs dashes over the snow in front of a crowd behind white and yellow barriers.

30 mushers will embark on a 1,000-mile sled dog race tomorrow morning, all vying to be the first to reach the finish line in Fairbanks.

Being an international event, the Yukon Quest attracts mushers from all over the world, and this year is no exception. Besides the usual competitors from the U.S. and Canada, Germany, France, New Zealand, Sweden, the Czech Republic, and the United Kingdom (UK) are all represented in the 2019 race that traverses the Yukon Territories into Alaska.

Race marshal Doug Harris says he’s glad to be back on the trail this year following the talented group of mushers from checkpoint to checkpoint.

“The field is a good field. There are former champions in the field and a really good group of young mushers, upcoming mushers. So, it’s going to be an interesting race.”

One of those up-and-coming mushers is Martin Apayauq Reitan. He has big shoes to fill, as his father Ketil has finished the Iditarod several times and his brother Vebjorn took home rookie of the year for finishing the 2018 Yukon Quest in fourth place.

During an interview with APRN, though, Martin Reitan said he’s not as interested in being rookie of the year.

“I’m just gonna run a good race that’s good for the dogs and that’s something I can physically do… It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to do both as a rookie in the same year.”

Reitan is signed up to attempt his first run of both the 2019 Quest and the 2019 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race, less than a month apart from each other. Although he hasn’t completed these thousand-mile events before, Reitan has run dogs from Nome to his home in Kaktovik with his father and brother.

For this particular long-distance sled dog race, Reitan is one of twelve rookies and the only Alaska Native musher. As Harris explains, all registered teams for the 2019 Quest, rookies or veterans, may have to change their race strategy due to a modified trail route.

“It’s just one of those things we have to do, and the mushers understand that and are probably changing their race strategy because of it, but they’ve been very good about it. And the race volunteers changing things at the last moment have been excellent. I think it should come off without too many difficulties, I’m hoping.”

The Quest announced on January 21 that mushers would bypass 70 miles of trail from the Braeburn to Carmacks checkpoints because of a lack of snow. All mushers will have 12 hours after arriving in Braeburn to truck their dog teams to Carmacks and restart the race from there.

Veteran musher Denis Tremblay of Quebec will kick off the 2019 Yukon Quest, as he will be the first out of the race chute at 11:00am (Pacific Standard Time) in Whitehorse, Yukon Territories on Saturday.

Image at top: file photo: a dog team leaves the starting chute of the Yukon Quest in Whitehorse, February 9, 2003.