Reigning champion Brent Sass was the first musher to reach Eagle in the 1,000-mile Yukon Quest, which is down to 13 mushers after two people scratched Tuesday morning in Circle.
Sass, who won Quest titles last year and in 2015, took the lead late on the fourth day of racing. He arrived in Eagle at 7:47 p.m. behind a team of 12 sled dogs.
Michelle Phillips, who on Monday morning left the previous checkpoint in Circle with an 11-minute lead on Sass, was running second on Tuesday night. The Quest’s race tracker showed her about 10 miles away from Eagle at 8 p.m.
Eagle is 376 miles from the start line in Fairbanks. It’s the final checkpoint in the United States and the start of a series of demanding mountain ascents before teams reach the halfway point in Dawson City.
Earlier in the day, Denis Tremblay of Quebec and Jason Campeau of Alberta called it quits when they reached Circle, 217 miles into the race. Both said they scratched for the well-being of their dogs, according to a report from the Quest.
A field of 15 — the smallest in race history — began the race Saturday in Fairbanks. The finish line is days away in Whitehorse.
In the shorter Yukon Quest 300, Fairbanks musher Dave Turner outdueled Two Rivers musher Jeremy Traska during the final 74 miles of racing to win the 300-mile race, which goes from Fairbanks to Circle and then back to Central.
Turner and a team of nine dogs reached the finish line at 9:40 p.m. Monday. Traska arrived 18 minutes later.
Traska had a 15-minute lead on Turner when the pair left Circle for the return trip to Central around noon Monday. Turner made the run in 8 hours, 56 minutes; Traska did it in 9:29.
Nathaniel Hamlyn of Whitehorse claimed third place at 12:31 a.m. Tuesday. The Yukon Quest 300 began Saturday with 21 teams.