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FAIRBANKS, Alaska - Hans Gatt won the Yukon Quest International Sled Dog race today, becoming the first musher ever to win the 1,000-mile race between Whitehorse, Yukon Territory, and Fairbanks two years in a row.
Gatt, of Atlin, British Columbia, reached the Fairbanks finish line at 7:12 a.m. behind a team of nine dogs. He completed the race in 10 days, 16 hours, 28 minutes.
A small crowd gathered in the morning darkness to greet Gatt at the finish line on the Chena River, where the temperature was 20 below with wind chills to 33 below zero.
"He was going at a pretty fast clip," said Jonni Roos, the assistant director of the Yukon Quest. "He seemed cold and was in good spirits and his team was just happy to be here."
For his efforts, Gatt takes home $30,000.
Gatt, 43, is only the third musher to win the race twice in the 20-year history of the race. John Schandelmeier of Paxson and Charlie Boulding of Manley are also two-time winners.
Gatt dominated the race since the halfway point at Dawson City. By the time he left the Angel Creek checkpoint Wednesday night he had a lead of nearly six hours over the teams vying for second place.
When he reached Angel Creek, Gatt said his team had been moving at a fast clip.
"I was on the brake all the way from Rosebud Summit coming in here," Gatt told KTUU-TV. "As soon as they hit a hard trail, the whole team started loping - at the end of a thousand-mile race."
"My team is fast on trails, so I got quick to the next stop," Gatt said. "Then I rested longer than everybody else did so they would run faster again on the next run."
William Kleedehn and Thomas Tetz, both of Carcross, Yukon, arrived at Angel Creek at 3:09 a.m. John Schandelmeier arrived seven minutes later. The teams must take a mandatory 8-hour layover at Angel Creek before making the 100-mile run to Fairbanks.
Twenty-three mushers started the race, which began in Whitehorse on Feb. 9. By Thursday, five had scratched and 18 remained.
One day after the race began, race organizers arranged for a restart, farther up the trail, due to a lack of snow and poor trail conditions. The change shortened the race, which is normally 1,023 miles, by 79 miles.