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Sass Overtakes Phillips, Arrives First into Braeburn

Sled dog team mushes along a snowy forest trail

Snowfall greeted Brent Sass and his 11 dog team in Braeburn at 2:37pm AKST. But before the snow could cover their tracks, Michelle Phillips and her 11 dogs came in roughly thirty minutes later at 3:13pm: to the last checkpoint in the 2020 Yukon Quest International Sled Dog race.

Phillips is striving to overtake Sass and win her first Quest victory. Back in Carmacks, veteran musher and the only female Quest winner, Aliy Zirkle speculated about Phillip’s resting strategy with KUAC Radio and how it could help her in the final leg of the race.

Zirkle was puzzled about Philips choice to stop in McCabe Creek, only 34 miles out of the Pelly Crossing checkpoint. Here’s her analysis of Phillip’s run from KUAC:

“So in the world of dog mushing rest equals speed. So, is she putting speed in her bank so that she and Brent leave at the same time but she has more speed and leaves him behind? Or not? Are they going to go the same speed and are we going to have a photo finish kind of thing?”

But as of this 5pm update, Sass still has a lead on Phillips, and with it being this close to the finish line, anything can happen. And Zirkle stressed to KUAC the importance of being mentally rested at this point in the race.

“I just think probably the most rested mentally well-put together musher is the one who’s going to win because they’re going to read their dogs best and it’s the musher who is the weak link anyway. I mean you see those dogs out there. As soon as they pull in they eat, they rest, they sleep.”

Teams are required to layover for 8 hours in Braeburn before racing the last 100 miles to the finish in Whitehorse.

Team positions haven’t changed since the last update. In third position is Cody Strathe out of Carmacks at 8:42 AKST this morning with 9 dogs. In fourth position, Allen Moore is still in Carmacks after arriving at 1:02pm AKST this afternoon with a team of 13 dogs. Ryne Olson is making her way towards Carmacks, currently in fifth position. She left Pelly Crossing at 10:09AM this morning (AKST) with ten dogs. Although the GPS tracker shows sixth position Torsten Kohnert and his 11 dogs just three miles behind her.

The first teams will likely arrive in Whitehorse sometime tomorrow morning or later in the day. Temperatures are expected to be a balmy four degrees and mushers will be racing in some fresh snow on their approach to the finish.

Image at top: A 2019 Yukon Quest team on the trail, somewhere near Pelly Crossing. Photo from Julien Schroder, Yukon Quest, used with permission.

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