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EAGLE - Zack Steer of Sheep Mountain was holding on to his lead Tuesday in the Yukon Quest International Sled Dog Race.
Steer, 30, reached the Eagle checkpoint at 10:36 p.m. Tuesday, after leaving the Slaven's Cabin hospitality stop at 3:23 a.m. Tuesday. Steer was followed out of Slaven's Cabin at 6:50 a.m. Tuesday by 2002 and 2003 Quest winner Hans Gatt, 45, of Atlin, British Columbia.
Eagle is 98 miles upriver from Slaven's Cabin. Steer and Gatt both were running with 11 dogs, with each having dropped three dogs at prior checkpoints.
Gatt told the Whitehorse Star on Monday that he does not expect to remain competitive due to several dogs battling illness.
"Those chances are gone, obviously," Gatt said to the Star about staying with Steer and winning his third straight Quest. "I mean, there's nothing I can do about it, you know; the dog team isn't up to it and (I) have to call it quits. Let's just plug along and try to finish."
Steer - who has led for the duration of the race - said he isn't going to get complacent.
"(Gatt) told me his race is finished but I know better than to believe Hans," Steer told the Star, laughing.
Other mushers out of Slaven's Cabin as of 11 p.m. Alaska time Tuesday, in order, included Dan Kaduce of Chatanika (12:51 p.m.), David Dalton of Healy (1:40 p.m.), John Schandelmeier of Paxson (1:45 p.m.), Sebastien Schnuelle of Whitehorse, Yukon Territory (2:19 p.m.), Frank Turner of Whitehorse (2:49 p.m.) and Peter Ledwidge of Dawson, Yukon Territory (3:40 p.m.).
Thomas Tetz of Tagish, Yukon Territory was running in ninth place, having left Slaven's Cabin at 5:32 p.m. Tuesday. Tetz is driving a dog team owned by Deborah Bicknell of Juneau, a former Quest musher who is serving as Tetz's dog handler this year. Tetz was running with eight dogs, down five from the start.
Catherine Pinard of Whitehorse left Slaven's Cabin at 8:34 p.m., and Kelley Griffin of Wasilla left the cabin at 9 p.m. Tuesday. Complete, updated standings can be found on the Web at www.yukonquest.com.
One musher dropped out Tuesday at Circle City - Eric Nicolier of Fairbanks - bringing the total number of scratched teams to eight.
The Quest began Saturday with a field of 31 mushers heading from Fairbanks to Whitehorse, a distance of 1,026 miles.