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Michelle Phillips First Out of Circle City, Sass, Moore, and Strathe Close Behind

A dogsled team departs a log cabin at Slaven's Roadhouse. Photo Credit: National Park Service (2013)

*5pm UPDATE: Quest veteran Michelle Phillips maintains her lead out of Circle City. 

According to unofficial results on the GPS Tracker, she’s about 12 miles away from Slaven’s Roadhouse with her team of 13 dogs. However, that’s only a dog drop. The next checkpoint is Eagle.

2019 Champion Brent Sass trails behind Phillips by about two miles with his full team of 14, in unofficial third position Cody Strathe is about 20 miles outside of that roadhouse. Allen Moore and Torsten Kohnert are also checked out of Circle and heading towards the roadhouse. 

For the forerunners coming out of Circle, there’s a descent towards Slaven’s Roadhouse and it’s coming out of Circle that Quest mushers will cross the Yukon River. Reportedly, there isn’t much jumble ice this year, but we likely won’t know that from the mushers themselves until at least the next checkpoint at Eagle. There are six teams checked into Circle as of this update.

Musher Ryne Olson was the latest one to leave Circle, and is currently in sixth position. She spoke with KUAC Radio earlier about the difficult terrain on Rosebud Summit, here’s a portion of their conversation:

“I actually had to stop a couple of times and look up a couple of times to catch my breath cause I’m not in very good shape, apparently, but yeah the dogs had no problem.”

– Ryne Olson

She credits her lead dog, Thrasher with motivating the team. 

Olivia Webster still holds the current Red Lantern, but her team pulled out of Central at 12:34 this afternoon and now join the rest of the pack towards Circle City.  

With no scratches, and veteran winners near the front of the pack, the small Yukon Quest field remains competitive. Teams running towards Eagle may expect snowfall and warmer temperatures of up to 19 degrees. 

Tune in to KNOM Update News at 8am tomorrow for your next update on the 2020 Yukon Quest International sled dog race.

*Written by KNOM’s Emily Hofstaedter.


*ORIGINAL STORY: This year’s Yukon Quest International Sled Dog Race may have a small field, but so far it has been highly competitive. The top four mushers checked out of Circle City within an hour of each other, led by Canadian Michelle Phillips, who left Circle at 10:06 AM after dropping a dog.

Close behind Phillips was last year’s champ, Brent Sass, who left at 10:17am and had been leading the pack before Phillips passed him inbound to Circle City early this morning.

Both mushers, along with third position Allen Moore, opted to rest their teams for over four hours in Circle City. This gave the musher in fourth position, Cody Strathe, the opportunity to make some ground on the pack. He left Circle City a few minutes after 11am.

Strathe is a Yukon Quest veteran, but his appearance this year came down to the last moment after he suffered a snow-machine injury two weeks ago. Speaking with KUAC before the race start, Strathe described what happened.

“(I) was out breaking trail all day out in the tundra around Denali, putting in new trails with the snow machine. I came back to town to get gas and when I ramped the snow-machine over a plow berm, I ended up rolling the snow machine over my leg and getting pinned.”

– Cody Strathe

Strathe was just yards from his house, but since no one was home, he had to flip the machine by himself. With the Quest just twelve days away, Strathe was positive he wouldn’t be able to compete. After a week of rehab on the injured knee, he decided he was up to the challenge, and is now comfortably positioned in the top 5, over 200 miles into the race.

Strathe, along with the other mushers who have checked out of Circle City, will now make the 60-mile trek to Slaven’s Roadhouse. The Roadhouse is not an official checkpoint on the trail, but mushers will have the opportunity to drop dogs. Today’s temperature is at -10, which is reportedly significantly higher than yesterday.

*Written by KNOM’s JoJo Phillips.

Image at top: A dogsled team in the Yukon Quest leaves Slaven’s Roadhouse, Yukon-Charley Rivers National Preserve, Alaska. Photo Credit: National Park Service (2013).

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