Whitehorse Daily Star

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Photo by John Tonin

HEADING TO WHITEHORSE – Yukon Quest musher Brent Sass is seen in the Braeburn checkpoint on Monday.

Leaders making final push to Whitehorse

On Monday afternoon, the leaders of the 37th Yukon Quest, Brent Sass and Michelle Phillips, reached Braeburn, the final checkpoint before the finish Whitehorse.

By John Tonin on February 11, 2020

BRAEBURN – On Monday afternoon, the leaders of the 37th Yukon Quest, Brent Sass and Michelle Phillips, reached Braeburn, the final checkpoint before the finish Whitehorse.

Sass reached Braeburn first at 3:37 p.m. with 11 dogs after battling through a snowstorm. Phillips was about five miles behind.

The snow didn’t stop the fans from coming out in force to cheer on the top two. When Sass came in, his beard was frosted with ice, and the noses of the dogs were also glazed-over.

Braeburn marks an eight-hour layover for the mushers. Sass immediately went to work setting up the straw for his dogs to rest on before feeding them.

While he worked taking off dog booties, Sass spoke to media. He said the snow started about 30 miles outside of the checkpoint.

“It slowed us down a lot,” said Sass.

“You have to sort of shut your mental, shut off the fact that you are going two miles an hour slower than we were.

“You focus on moving forward and kicking and ski poling and trying to be as positive as you can for the dogs.

“We just trucked right along. They did an excellent job.”

Sass said Phillips passed him while he was camping, but he “quick-bootied” the dogs and set off after her.

“She was up in front for a little while,” said Sass. “It was pretty apparent when we got going that I was a little bit faster, not a lot, but a little bit. We caught up to her and we were just going to ride behind her because we were still 30-something miles out from the checkpoint.

“She stopped and I went by her and I said, ‘I’m not going to look back.’ I just started ski poling and kicking like crazy.”

Sass said a neck-and-neck race isn’t too much fun.

“No,” answered Sass. “I mean, it’s fun when you are faster.

“But I mean, for the whole time, there is no relaxation. You have to be on it the whole way because she is right there.

“All I’m thinking about is the run tonight the whole time and getting any cushion I have tonight is going to make the 100-mile run tonight.”

Sass said he wasn’t worried about the snow coming down. He said he wanted to be out in front leaving Braeburn, even if he was the one breaking trail.

Once he reaches Pelly Crossing, he said, that’s when he begins to feel competitive.

“I mean, Pelly, Pelly is the place,” said Sass. “As soon as I went by Pelly, that’s kind of when I got into race mode. It’s been fun. Me and my handlers made a plan when we left Dawson and we executed it perfectly.

“It literally happened exactly how we said. It is a gamble. I pretty much knew Michelle was going to do the run in two camps to get to Pelly and I did it in three. I didn’t want to stress the dogs on those 70-mile runs,” Sass added.

“I did three runs; I love Stepping Stone anyway. I got the best sleep of the race there and everything just fell together.

“But it’s not over yet, there is still 100 miles to go.”

From Pelly, through Carmacks and into Braeburn, Sass said, he didn’t stopped kicking or using his ski poles.

“I never stopped,” said Sass. “My foot is a little bit bruised on the right a little bit. My right arm, I’ve got blister all over from holding onto the handlebar.”

He said the plan after leaving Braeburn is “just get to Whitehorse.

“At this point, I’m just sopped all the way through to my everything,” said Sass. “I’ve got to get these guys taken care of right now. Get dried up then I’ll think about that.

“It’s 100 miles, and I gotta go. Obviously, it’s going to take a heck of a lot longer than it normally does. Some sort of plan is going to have to get established because I’m not gonna say, ‘I’m going to get on my sled and race through 10 inches of snow.’”

Sass said his dogs have all been excellent and eating like crazy.

“They’re like alligators,” he said.

Phillips arrived in Braeburn at 4:14 p.m. Monday with 11 dogs.

Once there, she fed her dogs before getting them cozy in the straw. She quickly ate and went to bed.

As of mid-morning Tuesday, the two frontrunners were back on the trail.

Sass was 32 miles out from the finish line and moving at 6.5 mph, as per the Yukon Quest race tracker. He had built a 20-mile lead on Phillips.

Comments (1)

Up 4 Down 0

Dakotah John Skilbred on Feb 11, 2020 at 10:48 pm

Great Article on Brent Sass's Winning Strategy to win his 3rd Yukon Quest!

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