All 19 remaining mushers were on the trail to Dawson on Wednesday, the fourth day of the 22nd annual Yukon Quest International Sled Dog Race.
Rookie Marcelle Fressineau of Matawin, Quebec, was the last musher to leave Pelly Crossing, Yukon Territory - the race's third checkpoint - at 3:47 p.m. Yukon time Wednesday. Fressineau, who started but scratched in the 2002 Quest, was more than 12 hours behind the second-to-last musher out of the village.
The 1,026-mile Yukon Quest started in Whitehorse and will end in Fairbanks.
Kasilof mushers Jon Little and Lance Mackey - both veterans of the Iditarod, but first-time Quest participants - were the first to leave Pelly Crossing. Little left at 4:47 p.m. Yukon time Tuesday, followed Mackey at 5:22 p.m.
Quest veteran Hugh Neff of Skagway was third out of Pelly Crossing, trailing Mackey by just one minute. Little had dropped one of his 14 dogs, while Mackey and Neff had dropped two apiece.
Race officials were able to get one report from Stepping Stone, a cabin 32 miles from Pelly Crossing, indicating that Little remained in the lead Tuesday evening, with Mackey and Neff running second and third and separated by less than one minute.
The next mushers through were David Dalton, Sam Perrino, Gerry Willomitzer and William Kleedehn, all within one hour of Little. No further reports were available as of 10:30 p.m. Yukon time (9:30 p.m. Alaska time) Wednesday from Stepping Stone, which requires a generator and radio phone access to provide updates.
It is 203 miles from Pelly Crossing to the next official checkpoint at Dawson City, where mushers are required to take a 36-hour layover. The remote trail between the two checkpoints has one dog drop, at Scroggie Creek, and a few rest stations like Stepping Stone. Officials do not expect the first musher to reach Dawson until at least this afternoon.
For race updates, look on the Yukon Quest Web site at www.yukonquest.com.
Two mushers have scratched from this year's race. Veteran Martin Massicotte of St-Tite, Quebec, dropped out of the race at Pelly Crossing, and rookie Daniel Bourassa of Lanoraie, Quebec, pulled out at Carmacks.
Massicotte - who was the early leader in the 2004 Quest - had dropped five dogs when he left Pelly Crossing on Tuesday evening. He returned to the checkpoint a few hours later, telling race officials his dogs are tired and "just won't run."
Bourassa had fallen far behind the rest of the field when he opted to end his race.
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