EAGLE - Zack Steer of Sheep Mountain held on to a narrowing lead Wednesday in the Yukon Quest International Sled Dog Race as racers headed toward the Canadian border and the next checkpoint at Dawson City.
Steer left the Eagle checkpoint at 5 a.m. Wednesday and Hans Gatt of Atlin, British, Columbia, left at 6:31 a.m., to cut Steer's lead by more than half. Gatt won the Quest in 2002 and 2003.
David Dalton of Healy was in third. He left the Eagle checkpoint at 2:35 p.m. Dan Kaduce of Chatanika, who had been in third place, fell to fourth, leaving Eagle at 3:45 p.m.
Mushers travel 150 miles along the trail from Eagle to Dawson. It is about 18 miles to the top of American Summit, where teams have been known to get lost in whiteouts. Teams then travel off the Taylor Highway and into the Fortymile River valley. Teams can rest at a cabin at the confluence of the Fortymile and Yukon rivers. Then it is 50 miles to Dawson City, where teams are required to take a 36-hour rest.
Other mushers out of Eagle as of 9:30 p.m. Wednesday, in order, were Peter Ledwidge of Dawson City (6:38 p.m.), Sebastien Schnuelle of Whitehorse, Yukon Territory (6:51 p.m.), John Schandelmeier of Paxson (6:57 p.m.) and Frank Turner of Whitehorse (7:45 p.m.)
Thomas Tetz of Tagish, Yukon Territory, who is driving a team of dogs owned by Juneau's Deborah Bicknell, remained in ninth place Wednesday night. He arrived in Eagle at 3:56 p.m. Wednesday and had not departed as of 9:30 p.m. Fourteen other teams remain in the race.
The Yukon Quest covers a 1,026-mile course from Fairbanks to Whitehorse, Yukon Territory. For complete, updated standings, look on the Web at www.yukonquest.com.
Top four Yukon Quest mushers as of 9:30 p.m. Wednesday, with times out of Eagle:
1. Zach Steer, 5 a.m. Wednesday
2. Hans Gatt, 6:31 a.m. Wednesday
3. David Dalton, 2:35 p.m. Wednesday
4. Dan Kaduce, 3:45 p.m. Wednesday