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Meanwhile in Maui, Brent Sass is clicking 'refresh'

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From Kyle Hopkins in Anchorage –

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Meanwhile, in Maui, Brent Sass is hitting “refresh.”

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Doctors told the 2012 Iditarod Rookie of the Year to sit out this year's race after Sass suffered a severe concussion from smacking his head on lake ice last month during the Yukon Quest. Bad timing, says the 34 year old.

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An up-and-comer among the sport's top racers and Alaska reality TV stars alike, Sass said his team would have fared well on the dirt trenches that passed for an Iditarod Trail early in the race.

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"I was wishing I was out there," said the Eureka musher, who was running second in the Quest at the time of his injury. "Those are the types of conditions where I’m always good in."

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Sass was told to rest his body and brain. Like an NFL quarterback, he could suffer concussion symptoms for years to come, doctors said.

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"I'm definitely feeling better," Sass said after a week in Hawaii, where he traveled after visiting family out of state. "I had this sort of steady headache for the last three weeks. It’s sort of faded."

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For now he carries an iPad and iPhone to the beach, obsessively reloading Iditarod standings.

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Three Sass dogs -- Copper, Heath and Yukon -- are running with fellow Quest racer and kindred snow-caked philosopher Hugh Neff. Neff dropped Copper early in the race, Sass said.

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A huskie named Basin is on Paige Drobny’s Iditarod team. Some of the other Wild and Free kennel huskies are at home in Eureka with his handler, traveling with a guiding partner or preparing to race the Chatanika 200.

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Sass can’t resist posting race analysis on his Facebook page, such as accurately predicting four-time Iditarod champion Martin Buser’s Yukon River tactics earlier Friday.

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The challenge for Buser -- who is fending off Aliy Zirkle, Sonny Lindner, Jeff King and others, among others -- will be keeping his flagging team above 5 mph, Sass said in a phone interview.

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"(Buser) is not going to have the faster speeds that you’re going to see out of Jeff and Sonny who took their 24s in Ruby. He’s got a pretty good lead. Over three hours on Aliy. Five or six, seven on these other guys. But he’s going to be moving slower," Sass said.

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The first musher to arrive in Shaktoolik, 40 miles up the Norton Sound coast, has gone on to win the past 10 Iditarods. Sass says to expect lead changes closer to Nome this year, "mainly because you had those guys who took their rest so late in the race."

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Asked to predict the top five finishers, Sass said it will be hard to say until the field begins collecting in Unalakleet for the final push to Nome. Then he gave it a shot anyway:

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"Aliy, Sonny, Robert (Sorlie), Nic (Petit) and Jeff."


Anchorage Daily News
Anchorage