Girdwood musher Nic Petit captured his third straight victory in the Copper Basin 300 sled dog race by beating a fast-moving Brent Sass of Eureka to the finish line by 16 minutes Monday.
Petit drove a team of eight perky-looking dogs into Glennallen at 1:48 p.m. Clear skies afforded a nice view of the Wrangell Mountains but kept things cold.
Temperatures hovered around minus 30 at the finish line, where a small crowd cheered Petit’s arrival. Both of his lead dogs wore blue coats, as did most of his other dogs.
“It was a daylight finish and it wasn’t 50 below, so we’re loving life,” race manager Jason Severs said. “Things went relatively smooth for a race in this cold of weather.”
Sass reached the finish line at 2:04 p.m. with a team of 10. A pair of Two Rivers mushers finished third and fourth — Ryne Olson crossed the finish line at 3:19 p.m. and Aliy Zirkle followed at 4:21 p.m. At 5:49 p.m., Matt Failor arrived to claim fifth place.
A race known for delivering sub-zero temperatures, the 31st edition of the Copper Basin 300 was frigid even by its standings. Severs said the thermometer dipped to minus 56 in some places during the three-day, 288-mile race.
Though the weather was cold, the competition was hot.
Sass made good time during the final 118 miles to cut into Petit’s lead while claiming his second-straight runnerup finish. Sass trailed Petit by 39 minutes out of the Meier’s Lake checkpoint, by 29 minutes out of the Chistochina checkpoint and by 16 minutes at the finish line.
Last year, Petit beat Sass by 35 minutes in a much faster race — Petit finished at 7:07 a.m. Monday, some six hours ahead of this year’s pace.
The cold took its toll. A field of 27 teams left Glennallen on Saturday morning, and as of early Monday evening 13 teams had scratched, including three who called it quits Monday at Meier’s Lake.
Petit built an early lead and took his mandatory six-hour layover at the Sourdough checkpoint, where there is no food or lodging. Temperatures there were about 50 below, Severs said.
Sass stayed at Sourdough for four hours, delaying his six-hour break until the next checkpoint at Meier’s Lake Roadhouse, 40 miles away.
Sass reached Meier’s Lake, where there is both food and lodging, 85 minutes ahead of Petit. Petit rested there for four hours, but Sass had to stay for six hours plus his start differential from Saturday, when teams left Glennallen in two-minute intervals.
Petit left Meier’s Lake with a 39-minute lead. On the 68-mile run from Meier’s Lake to Chistochina, Sass was 10 minutes faster to cut the gap to 29 minutes.
Both men spent four hours at Chistochina before making the final 50-mile run to Glennallen. Sass’s team made the run 13 minutes faster than Petit’s, but it wasn’t fast enough to deny Petit a third straight win.
Petit will collect $7,000 for his victory. Sass gets $5,000, Olson $4,000, Zirkle $2,500 and Failor $1,500. The remaining purse will go to three prizes of $300 each -- the sportsmanship award, the vet care award and the rookie of the year award.