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Hans Gatt and Zack Steer see-sawed at the front of the pack of the Yukon Quest International Sled Dog Race on Sunday.
As of 9 p.m. Sunday, Gatt, the two-time defending champion from Atlin, British Columbia, was back in front, having left the Stepping Stone rest stop at 8:55 p.m. Yukon time - just four minutes after arriving. Stepping Stone is 171 miles from Dawson City, Yukon Territory, and 32 miles from Pelly Crossing.
Steer, from Sheep Mountain, was the first musher to arrive at Stepping Stone - at 7:20 p.m. Yukon time - but remained there as Gatt passed through. Steer told race officials he planned to stay at the remote cabin until 1 a.m.
The owners of the cabin at Stepping Stone regularly provide food and shelter to racers.
Earlier in the day, Steer took the lead at the Stewart River/Scroggie Creek checkpoint, located 101 miles from Dawson City and 70 miles from Stepping Stone. Steer passed through without stopping at 4:10 a.m. Yukon time Sunday. Gatt, who arrived at Stewart River at 11:28 p.m. Saturday, remained at that checkpoint until 6 a.m. Sunday.
Gatt is running with a team of 11 dogs, while Steer has 10 dogs in harness.
The rest of the Quest field was running far behind the two leaders.
Peter Ledwidge of Dawson City jumped into third place, passing by Stewart River without stopping at 7:30 p.m. Sunday.
As of 9 p.m. Sunday, four mushers remained at Stewart River - David Dalton of Healy (arrived 1:30 p.m. Yukon time Sunday), Dan Kaduce of Chatanika (2:15 p.m.), Frank Turner of Whitehorse (4:10 p.m.) and Sebastian Schnuelle of Whitehorse (5:50 p.m.).
Ten mushers were on the trail between Dawson City and Stewart River, including Thomas Tetz of Tagish, Yukon Territory. Tetz, who left Dawson City at 11:30 p.m. Saturday in ninth place, is running a team owned by Deborah Bicknell of Juneau.
Six mushers remained at Dawson City, where all racers are required to take a 36-hour layover.
The 1,026-mile Yukon Quest started Feb. 14 in Fairbanks, and ends in Whitehorse.
For updated standings, look on the Web at www.yukonquest.com.