The 1000-mile long Yukon Quest Sled Dog Race wraps up today when the final competitor is expected to cross the finish line. That musher will be Dyan Bergen, who has been running behind the pack since almost the start. Still, as a testament to her skill and endurance, she will complete the difficult event today and pick up the ceremonial Red Lantern when she arrives at the finish line in Fairbanks, Alaska having traveled all the way from Whitehorse in the Yukon in Canada.
This year’s Yukon Quest was particularly challenging thanks to an over abundance of snow in certain areas of the course. There was so much powder in fact that race organizers were forced to cut a 50-mile section from the route because it was impassable. Twenty-six sled dog teams started in Whitehorse, but six of them, including four-time champ Lance Mackey, dropped throughout the course of the event.
But for the men running up front, it was quite the competition. Allen Moore and Hugh Neff, both very experienced mushers, pushed each other at every turn, each making strategic moves at various times that would have an impact on each other and the eventual outcome of the race. In the end, it was Moore who finished first this past Monday, just an hour and fifteen minutes ahead of Neff. Brent Sass came along later in the day to claim third place.
Throughout the rest of the week the other mushers and their dogs have been trickling into Fairbanks, with several arriving just yesterday. That leaves Bergen as the lone sled still out on the course, although she will make it home later today. In a race like the YQ, there is absolutely no shame in coming in last place however, as it is an accomplishment just to finish. I’m sure she’ll display her Red Lantern very proudly as she absolutely should.
With the Yukon Quest wrapping up, its nearly time for the Iditarod to begin. In a few weeks, a larger field of racers will take to that classic course in the annual race from Anchorage to Nome. As usual, I can’t wait.