FAIRBANKS - Aliy Zirkle has stretched her lead to nearly two hours in the Yukon Quest International Sled Dog Race.
The Two Rivers musher was first out of the Carmacks checkpoint this morning, departing at 4:46 a.m. Canadian Thomas Tetz was running second, leaving at 6:31.
Jack Berry of Homer, Frank Turner of Whitehorse and Peter Butteri from Tok were in third through fifth place, respectively. All had arrived at Carmacks, which is an old gold mining community of about 400 residents along the Yukon River.
The leaders head now for the Braeburn Lodge checkpoint, which is 79 miles down the trail. From there it's a 75-mile sprint to the abbreviated finish line at Takhini Hot Springs.
Unusually warm temperatures have caused overflow and some open water on the Yukon River, so race officials ordered Mondayh that the race be shortened. It usually runs 1,000 miles, or from Fairbanks to Whitehorse, Yukon Territory.
Zirkle is bidding to become the first woman ever to win the Quest.
``Aliy's got tremendous determination and competitive fire and she's taking very good care of her dogs,'' said Turner, who won the race in 1995. ``She's up and at 'em before the bells go off. She's putting on a real nice show here. I think she's got the team to beat.''