Thursday, February 10, 2011

YQ Morning Report - REAL racing begins.

Good Morning!  As our front runners were enjoying their mandatory 36-hour layover in Dawson, I also elected to take a bit of a lay-over.  There wasn't much happening in the race on which to comment and I had to prepare for an important meeting with my medical operations supervisor.  I had an issue I wished to address, and I'm quite pleased to note that it was handled very professionally and very effectively by my supervisor.  Like any worker, I have my gripes with the company, but when it comes to important employee affairs issues, Doyon Universal Services does their level best to take good care of the hired help. 

As I write, Hugh Neff and Hans Gatt are both out on the trail, heading down the Yukon River toward the Fortymile River.  Ken Anderson is scheduled to leave Dawson at 8:30 (Yukon time), Brent Sass at 10:05, Sab Schnuelle at 10:49 and Allen Moore at 11:16.  I'm anxious to see how many dogs Ken will have on the gang-line.  As I mentioned yesterday I believe his prospects are very much reliant on the amount of dog-power he can muster. 

An article in today's issue of the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner notes that "Veteran Quest musher Michelle Phillips of Tagish, Yukon, dropped from the race in Dawson. Phillips, who is also running the Iditarod this year, arrived in Dawson with only eight of the 14 dogs with which she started the race." 

The next checkpoint in the trail is the village of Eagle, Alaska.  As the teams cross the border and into the Last Great Frontier, they will be entering the Alaska Standard Time Zone, so reported times will be AST, rather than Yukon time.  The distance between Dawson and Eagle is roughly 150 miles.  The first 50 miles are on the Yukon River.  Usually the first 20 miles or so, the stretch that Hugh has nearly finished and Hans in the midst of, is pretty easy running.  The Fortymile Hospitality Stop is usually located pretty close to the mouth of the Fortymile River, which the teams will follow as they make their way to the intersection with the Taylor Highway.  They'll turn north on the highway (which is merely a trail during winter), cross over American Summit and then follow the road into Eagle. 

I doubt we'll see any major big moves among the frontrunners on this stretch of trail.  All have very fresh, well rested teams so any dramatic tactical move can be easily countered.  If Neff continues his strategy of long runs and short rest, we may see some of the other frontrunners attempt to overtake and pass him by doing a very long run between Eagle and Central, quickly blowing through the checkpoint at Circle City.  That would probably offer the best trail and terrain opportunity to attempt such a move.  It's a bold tactic fraught with risks, especially the risk of overtiring a team prior to the hard climbs of Eagle and Rosebud Summits. 

Update:  I just checked the weather forecast for the Fortymile and Eagle area.  "Low moving into the northern Gulf will bring return flow to the southeast corner of the interior. Convergent zone over the area will produce snowfall primarily east of the Richardson Highway and south of Eagle...with moderate potential for significant snowfall." 

I'm not sure how the National Weather Service defines "significant" snowfall, but a few inches of fresh snow on the trail will almost certaily slow all of the frontrunning teams.  Breaking out a fresh trail is hard work, especially for a team that is already running on short rest.  Depending upon what the weather actually does, it has the potential to be a "game changer" for the leading team, giving the advantage of a freshly broken trail to those who follow.
I'll be keeping an eye on the leader board and Live Tracking, and will probably post an update after Ken Anderson leaves and we know how many dogs he's able to retain on his team.

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