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Sunday Quest update: Moore aims to stay ahead of Neff this time

SAM HARREL

Allen Moore won the Yukon Quest on Monday morning. See the most recent story here.

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The Yukon Quest International Sled Dog Race celebrated a hero on Sunday and will crown a champion on Monday.

A winner is expected sometime between 7-9 a.m. in Fairbanks, and the man who was denied victory last year was in position Sunday night to get some payback.

Allen Moore beat Hugh Neff to the Two Rivers checkpoint by 16 minutes Sunday afternoon, which means he'll have a 16-minute head start over Neff when the two begin the final 72-mile run to the finish line Sunday night.

Last year, Neff chased Moore down in the final stretch to win by 26 seconds.

Led by Scout and Quinto, Moore's team of nine tail-wagging dogs looked perky as it pulled into the Two Rivers checkpoint -- an area that is home to Moore and partner Aliy Zirkle's SP Kennel.

Moore had snatched the lead earlier in the day when he zipped in and out of the Mile 101 checkpoint, 113 miles from Fairbanks.

Neff got to there first, at 8:05 a.m., and the Tok musher told officials he planned to stay for awhile, according to a report on the Quest's Facebook page.

Moore arrived five minutes later and said he was going to keep traveling. Nine minutes later, at 8:19, he was gone -- and four minutes later Neff had his team back on the trail too, according to the report.

Moore gained another 12 minutes on Neff during the run to Two Rivers. He arrived at 2:31 p.m. Sunday, followed by Neff at 2:47. Once there, the two settled in for an eight-hour break.

Behind them on the trail, Eureka's Brent Sass added to his already considerable legend as Quest savior, helping Big Lake's Jake Berkowitz get his team over Eagle Summit. Berkowitz was in third place at the time and Sass was in fourth.

Sass has turned hero in three previous Quests. He helped retrieve Yuka Honda's runaway team in 2007, he helped William Kleedehn's stalled team get over Eagle Summit and in 2011 he rescued Hans Gatt on wind-blown American Summit, hitching Gatt's team to his own sled and taking both teams over the pass. His now-retired lead dog Silver was a part of all of those rescues, and after the Gatt incident, the Quest created the Silver Legacy Award to honor the dog.

This time, Sass came to the aid of Berkowitz.

In a videotaped interview posted on the Quest's Facebook page, Berkowitz said his dogs "hit the wall" going up the 3,685-foot pass.

"We made it to the saddle fine," he said. "They were having a little trouble finding the trail -- there was no signs of teams in front of us, and I think (the dogs) got overwhelmed with the steepness of it as well as not having a trail. I think they kinda hit the wall while they were searching, going back and forth between trails to find the right one.

"... I've heard horror stories of people just giving up, and I was like, this is not an option. We need to figure out a solution real fast before this team goes to bed on us."

That solution came in the form of Sass.

He passed the Berkowitz dogs, went to the top and parked his team. Then he jogged downhill to help. Together he and Berkowitz got the dogs and the sled up the mountain to where Sass' dogs waited, with Berkowitz pushing the sled and Sass leading the dogs.

"We got the teams together and I let him pass me back, and we were off the mountain," Berkowitz said.

 

Reach Beth Bragg at bbragg@adn.com or 257-4335.

 

 


By BETH BRAGG
bbragg@adn.com