GLENNALLEN -- Allen Moore defended his Copper Basin 300 title on Monday with only minutes to spare.
The 2013 Yukon Quest champion managed to hold off Girdwood's Nicolas Petit by just seven minutes to earn back-to-back victories in the 300-mile sled dog race that starts and finishes in the Interior Alaska community of Glennallen. Moore, who operates SP Kennel in Two Rivers with fellow Quest champ and two-time Iditarod runner up Aliy Zirkle, owns four prior Copper Basin wins.
About four dozen spectators and race officials gathered for the finish at Old Paths Baptist Church here Monday afternoon. The two mushers traded congratulations at the finish line, though Petit -- a tall, gangly musher who was raised in France -- jokingly threatened Moore with a pole.
Moore said he knew Petit, the surprising sixth-place finisher in last year's Iditarod, was behind him the whole time, but noted their outlooks on the race were different. Moore said he likes to rest more toward the beginning, while Petit prefers more rest late in the race. Nobody knows exactly how it will all shake out.
"It just all happens at once," Moore said.
Indeed it does. As leaders closed in on the finish line, a tight pack emerged that included Zirkle, Wade Marrs, Gerry Willomitzer and Ben Harper. Only about two hours separated the front runners coming into the last checkpoint at Tolsona before the finish line.
While open water hampered some mushers near the beginning of the race (four-time Yukon Quest champ Hans Gatt ended up scratching), mushers were treated to a smooth trail for the most part thanks to plenty of snow in the region leading up to the race. Temperatures hovered around zero – almost perfect for the long-distance sled dogs that thrive racing in colder temperatures.
So what does Moore like about the race this year?
"The winning," he joked.
Alaska Dispatch Assistant Managing Editor Maia Nolan-Partnow contributed to this report from Glennallen.