The Yukon Quest International Sled Dog Race moved its finish line Wednesday, which meant Martin Apayauq Reitan’s race ended a bit earlier than he expected.
Reitan, a 21-year-old from Kaktovik, claimed Rookie of the Year honors when he crossed the new finish line at the Nordale Bridge on the Chena River just before 5 p.m. Wednesday.
Faced with “increasingly dangerous conditions coming into Fairbanks” on the river ice, Quest officials moved the finish line out of downtown Fairbanks and 14 miles upriver to Nordale Bridge, where the ice is holding up better.
The move came after 13 mushers had already finished the 1,000-mile run from Whitehorse. Fourteen mushers were still on the trail when officials moved the finish line, a development that caught Reitan off-guard.
“Reitan says he realized this was the finish when he saw all the people,” the Quest reported via Twitter. “He also thought maybe it was just a spot for the photographers to get a good shot. Surprise!”
Reitan placed 14th, the Quest’s top rookie. Brent Sass of Eureka won the Quest on Monday, and a dozen of mushers remained on the trail as of Wednesday afternoon.
Quest officials told fans in Fairbanks to plan on a 30-minute drive to reach the new finish line, located at mile marker 882 on the race tracker.
The decision to move the finish line provides a fitting bookend to a race that began Feb. 2 in Whitehorse. Because of scant snow, a stretch of nearly 80 miles early in the race was eliminated between the Braeburn and Carmacks checkpoints.
Yukon Quest finishers — 1) Brent Sass; 2) Hans Gatt; 3) Allen Moore; 4) Michelle Phillips; 5) Matt Hall; 6) Paige Drobny; 7) Torsten Kohnert; 8) Denis Tremblay; 9) Jessie Royer; 10) Nathaniel Hamlyn; 11) Ryne Olson; 12) Cody Strathe; 13) Brian Wilmshurst; 14) Martin Apayauq Reitan.
Still on the trail (6 p.m. Wednesday) — Dave Dalton, Jason Biasetti, Deke Naaktgeboren, Andrew Pace, Rob Cooke, Curt Perano, Remy Leduc, Jim Lanier, Misha Wiljes, Hendrik Stachnau, Laura Allaway, Chase Tingle, Isabelle Travadon.