Whitehorse Daily Star

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FIFTEEN REMAIN – Three mushers have dropped from the 2020 Yukon Quest 1,000-mile race leaving 15 teams. It is the lowest number of teams in the race's history.

Three mushers drop from Yukon Quest, 15 remain

Only 15 mushers remain in contention for the Yukon Quest 1,000 Mile International Sled Dog Race.

By John Tonin on January 23, 2020

Only 15 mushers remain in contention for the Yukon Quest 1,000 Mile International Sled Dog Race. As announced on the Yukon Quest Twitter feed, veteran Matthew Failor and twin rookies Lori and Louve Tweddell have withdrawn from the race.

Failor withdrew for personal reasons, according to Quest personnel. Lori and Louve did not meet the qualifications to be eligible for the 1,000-mile race.

As per the Yukon Quest rules under conditions of entry: "Mushers must have a demonstrated ability to complete a long-distance sled dog race."

The rules continue to state that "rookie mushers must complete a 300 mile YQI (Yukon Quest International) sanctioned race and one other YQI sanctioned race of at least 200 miles (500 miles minimum)"

"Musher assessment forms must be completed for both qualifiers, and submitted with entry. If qualifier is run between sign up date and pre-race vet check, the musher assessment form is due within 10 days of running a qualifying race."

Any qualifying races must be completed within 42 months of the start of the Yukon Quest race.

To be accepted as a qualifier, no race allowing outside assistance (optional or otherwise) will be approved or accepted as a qualifier for the 2020 Yukon Quest.

The twins would have been qualified to run the 1,000-mile race had they finished the Copper Basin 300, which they dropped from, this year.

Instead, the twins requested to run the YQ300 but Shayna Hammer, executive director on the Canadian side, said they missed the Jan. 3 deadline.

"The deadline is Jan. 3 as per rule two," said Hammer. "There are no exceptions to switch between races. It's how we maintain consistency."

In rule two, it states: "late entrants must request any rules exemptions by January 3, 2020."

Hammer said this situation has arisen in the past.

"Others have tried to switch or asked to enter late," said Hammer. "They were denied as well. We treat everyone the same. The deadlines are based on logistic requirements."

In August 2019, the Yukon Quest rules committee resigned. Hammer said it was due to disagreements with the board. An interim committee was put in place.

Due to the approaching 2020 race, Hammer said any amendments to the rules will be for 2021.

"The future rules committee will look at the 2021 rules and make recommendations," said Hammer.

With only 15 mushers remaining, the 2020 Quest has the lowest musher total in the race's history. Although small, the Quest still features many notable names.

Brent Sass, the 2019 winner, is back in the mix and will be looking to make it three Quest victories. He won his first race in 2015.

Three-time winner and 2018 champion Allen Moore is returning, as is local musher Michelle Phillips, last year's fourth-place finisher.

The 2020 race is heavy with veterans, as only three rookies, Olivia Webster, Nora Sjalin and Pat Noddin remain.

As per the Quest rules, a rookie is defined as: "any first time entrant or any entrant of the Yukon Quest who has not reached the finish line."

Webster fits the latter part of the definition as she dropped from last year's race after leaving Dawson City.

The maximum amount of mushers the Yukon Quest can accommodate is 50. Looking back at past results, 1988, 47, and 1989, 45 have had the largest amount of mushers start the race. That is not to say that many finished.

Outside of 2020, 2014 had the previous lowest total of mushers at the start chute with 18.

Hammer said she is not concerned about the low number of teams.

"At this point, we are just looking forward to the race and putting on a great race regardless," said Hammer.

It was also announced on Twitter last Saturday that three mushers, Will Troshynski, Kelby Dillon and Eddie Burke Jr., have pulled out of the YQ300. Twenty-one mushers remain in the 300-mile race.

The 2020 Yukon Quest will begin Feb. 1 in Fairbanks.

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