FAIRBANKS - Aliy Zirkle of Two Rivers was holding a tenuous one-hour lead in the Yukon Quest International Sled Dog Race today as the front-runners moved toward the Pelly Crossing checkpoint, 362 miles from the finish line at Whitehorse.
Zirkle was the first musher to reach the Stewart River-Scroggie Creek dog drop station, arriving at 5:40 a.m. (AST) Sunday and leaving nine minutes later. Frank Turner of Whitehorse, departed an hour after Zirkle.
Both camped farther down the trail.
The leaders had a 102-mile run to Pelly Crossing, a fishing village of about 300 residents along the shore of the Pelly River.
Five teams had passed through Scroggie Creek and five more had arrived by 4:30 p.m. Sunday.
An ailing Dave Dalton of Wasilla returned to Dawson City where he scratched Sunday afternoon.
Dalton had left the midway point with six dogs, the minimum under Quest rules, after taking his 36-hour mandatory layover. Then, after successfully crossing King Solomon's Dome with his tiny team, he was waylaid by a bout of the flu.
``I went over the dome about six hours out,'' Dalton told the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner. ``I camped trying to get over this (flu). When I woke up, I turned them around and headed back.''
It was only the third scratch of Dalton's 11-year Quest career. He dropped out of back-to-back races in 1992 and 1993 before finishing five straight coming into the 2000 running of the 1,000-mile race from Fairbanks to Whitehorse.
Daytime temperatures along the trail have been relatively warm, hovering around the freezing mark.
Deborah Bicknell of Juneau still was bringing up the rear. She arrived at Dawson City late Sunday, where she was taking her mandatory 36-hour layover.
Eighteen teams were reported on the trail out of Dawson City early today.