Yukon North Of Ordinary

News archive for February 10, 2014

Victor gives full credit to dogs’ performance

Alaskan musher Allen Moore claimed his second straight Yukon Quest victory early this morning, but not in the way anyone expected.

By Marcel Vander Wier on February 10, 2014 at 3:47 pm

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Photo by Marcel Vander Wier

GLIDING INTO CARMACKS – Allen Mooreʼs lead dogs, Scruggs (front, left) and Quito (front, right), lead him into Carmacks early Saturday afternoon. At that point, he was holding onto first place by a slim margin over Brent Sass, whose injury later forced him from the race (top). A WINNERʼS SMILE – Two Rivers, Alaska musher Allen Moore grins early this morning while speaking with reporters after winning his second consecutive Yukon Quest. He crossed the finish line at the Takhini Hot Springs at 3:12 a.m.

Alaskan musher Allen Moore claimed his second straight Yukon Quest victory early this morning, but not in the way anyone expected.

The 56-year-old from Two Rivers crossed the finish line at the Takhini Hot Springs at 3:12 a.m., breaking his own record for the fastest finishing time on a shortened Quest trail.

Moore finished in eight days, 14 hours and 21 minutes.

He will take home more than $22,700 for his second race win in only four attempts. He also takes home $5,000 worth of placer gold, originally awarded to Brent Sass in Dawson City.

“I guess weʼre doing a few things right, anyway,” Moore joked with reporters after he crossed the finish line.

“But mainly, we have some good dogs right now, and theyʼre hard to come by, just like any basketball or football team.

“Once you get that, you have a pretty good team for a few years and itʼs really hard to bring in more that is that calibre after that.

“Right now, we have that. And I hope that will continue.”

Even as Moore celebrated, the victory party was subdued by Sundayʼs incident involving Eureka musher Brent Sass.

Sass, 34, had been running neck-and-neck with Moore toward Braeburn, the raceʼs final checkpoint along the historic trail, when he fell off his sled and suffered a head injury.

The injured musher was eventually rescued by Canadian Rangers and brought to the Braeburn checkpoint, where he was airlifted to Whitehorse General Hospital.

He has reportedly been discharged and is resting in a local hotel.

Due to his withdrawal from the race, Sass forfeits the four ounces of gold originally earmarked for him when he entered the race halfway point, Dawson, in first place. Mushers need to complete the race to claim the gold.

Moore spent some extra time at the Braeburn checkpoint, reportedly giving Sass some well wishes before heading on his way.

Moore said the race down the home stretch was different without his main rival pushing him.

“It would have been interesting,” he said. “We would have been neck-and-neck all the way here.”

This yearʼs race was 128 km (80 miles) shorter than usual due to the removal of American Summit and the final leg to Whitehorse from the trail.

The finish line change was made due to thin ice on the Yukon River.

Last year, Mooreʼs finishing time was eight days, 19 hours and 39 minutes, when the trail was 80 km (50 miles) shorter due to a reroute around American Summit.

The last musher to win a Yukon Quest that finished at the Takhini Hot Springs was Mooreʼs wife, Aliy Zirkle.

Just 30 at the time, Zirkle became the first female musher to win the 1,600-km race, in just her third attempt.

She said returning to the hot springs brought back memories of her victory, which earned her the adoration of many Whitehorse-based fans.

“It was really emotional coming in,” she recalled of her victory in 2000. “I came in during the day and there were just people lined everywhere on the trails. It was really, really great.”

Now 44, Zirkle continues to compete at a high level, claiming victory in the Yukon Quest 300 just last week.

Since winning the Quest in 2000, she has competed in 13 straight Iditarods, finishing in second place the past two years.

The two mushers own SP Kennels in Two Rivers, just outside of Fairbanks.

Zirkle said the latest Quest victory proves that their collection of canines is one of the best in the world.

“Right now in our kennel, we really do have the best dogs in the sport right now,” she said. “Weʼve known that for a year and a half. This kind of puts the icing on the cake.”

She said their current group of dogs are in their late prime, including seven-year-old lead dog Quito, her brother Nacho and sister Chica.

“We know it takes individual all-stars like Wayne Gretzky or LeBron James … and they are it,” Zirkle said.

“So we hope we keep getting some great dogs in the future, but right now, that is the team and thatʼs why weʼre doing as well as weʼre doing.

“Of course, having the best dogs with their ability and their enthusiasm and their drive, you still have to have some mushers who can put two and two together,” she added. “I just really think that Allen over the last five years has become really smart on the back of the runners.

“Heʼs obviously figured it out.”

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