I had a doctor appointment this morning, so while I was in town I restocked with groceries, and stopped at Cold Spot Feeds to buy 2 new tug lines. As you recall, Amazing Grace chewed through a tug line yesterday and I had to replace it with the last spare I had on hand.
About the same time I returned home from town, Hans Gatt was the first Quest musher to arrive at the checkpoint in Eagle. Within 20 minutes 3 other front runners came in, those being Zach Steer, Hugh Neff and Lance Mackey. I can just imagine the scene in the checkpoint about now. I'd bet all four are sipping warm beverages, watching each other, and each waiting for another to "jump". Sooner or later one of them has to make a move, and when he does the others will be hot on his heels for a race to the mid-point of Dawson.
A post on the Yukon Quest official facebook page pretty much confirmed that impression. About 25 minutes ago a Quest staffer wrote "The four leaders are sitting in the Eagle checkpoint eating and arguing over who is going to go first. Lance asked Hugh if he has ever been able to say he was first out of Eagle. Hugh said no, have you?
Lance: Yeah, a few times.
Hugh: How'd that work for you?
Lance: Pretty darn good, actually.
Hugh: Well then maybe you should lead out again. The banter was continuous...they are all pretty funny guys.
There is money riding on this segment of the race. The first musher into Dawson receives a prize of 4 ounces of Klondike placer gold and it is safe to say that no one is going to come up from behind to pass this group.
The trail from Eagle to Dawson City is about 145 miles, going over the Fortymile River country. This segment of the trail is notorious for bitter cold temperatures and difficult trail conditions. Then they climb out of the Fortymile country over American Summit before arriving in Dawson City. I'm guessing that at least 3 of these mushers will do this run in three legs of about 6 hours each. It's hard to say how Zach Steer will run it, as he seems to be adhering to his strategy of short runs followed by short rests. It's a strategy that has paid off well thus far in the race. Thus upcoming segment of the race represents a lot of miles, with no checkpoints or dog drops in between.
These four front-runners are well ahead of their remaining competitors. According to the leader-board Sonny Lindner was the fifth musher into Eagle, arriving about four hours behind the leading group. Since then Gerry Willomitzer, Abbie West and Brent Sass have all reached the checkpoint.
Josh Cadzow is barely hanging onto 10th place. He apparently dropped 3 dogs at the Slaven's Cabin dog-drop, for a total of five dogs dropped. I'm guessing he and his team must have suffered some sort of mishap out on the trail, but of course that is only speculation. With only 9 dogs on the gangline, he has to be very careful as he continues. I don't see any way he can remain competitive if he has to drop any more between here and Dawson City, and he still has two major summits, American Summit and King Solomon's Dome to cross. He's a relatively small guy and he has strong dogs, they can certainly carry him on down the trail, but I'm sure he's already noticed the lack of power.
I can't think of anything more to share. I slept rather fitfully last night, and now I'm paying for it. I'm going to fix myself a simple supper, vegetate in front of the glowing black box for a while, and hit the rack early.