Despite his optimism in the days after he suffered a head injury in the Yukon Quest, popular Eureka dog musher Brent Sass is pulling out of this year's Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race.
Sass, 34, and his sled dogs were in second place behind the Quest's eventual winner, Allen Moore, when Sass dozed off Feb. 8, fell from his sled and cracked his head on lake ice about 100 miles from the race's finish. Sass ultimately used a beacon to call in a rescue, scratching after what he described to reporters as "900 miles of bliss," and was told later by doctors in Whitehorse that he had a severe concussion, he said.
While resting in Whitehorse in the following days, Sass said he was researching helmets and still planned on competing in the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race, which starts March 1. But on Friday, in a Facebook post, Sass announced his withdrawal from the Last Great Race.
The decision came after consulting with doctors, family and close friends, Sass wrote.
"Unfortunately I am still not myself and my health is far from 100 percent," he wrote. "This decision did not come easy, but I am confident that it is the right decision for me and my dogs."
"Right now it is important that I focus on my health so that we can live up to the future potential we have," Sass wrote.
Sass thanked all of his supporters.
His scratch leaves an even 70 mushers in the Iditarod field. The ceremonial start is set for March 1 in Anchorage, with a final decision on where to restart yet to be determined.
Race officials said they would decide by Monday whether to restart in Willow on March 2, as planned, or move the restart to Fairbanks on March 3 due to poor trail conditions.
By CASEY GROVE