Nine days, 12 hours and 49 minutes after the 2015 Yukon Quest International Sled Dog Race started in Whitehorse, it crowned a champion.
Brent Sass crossed the finish line in Fairbanks at 10:52pm AKST Monday, well ahead of second-place musher Allen Moore. It’s the first Yukon Quest victory for Sass, who came close in 2014 before suffering a head injury that ended his race just before the last checkpoint.
“It's unreal," an emotional Sass said after arriving at the finish. "I'm real proud of those 12 dogs."
Sass spoke in particular about lead dog Basin, saying he took him out of the lead position once and he was not happy, so he put Basin back where he belongs. Obviously it paid off.
Basin lead Sass and the rest of the team down the final 73 miles with a vengeance, pulling away from Moore after initially starting two minutes behind when they left Two Rivers.
What was the conversation when Sass passed Moore on the trail? It was easy-going according to Sass, who said Moore gave him a little smile in return. “This is fun, isn't it?!"
Sass takes home $24,061.92, which is 18.93% of a total $127,110 purse. He also claims four ounces of gold for being the first musher to arrive in Dawson City, then go on to finish the race. The gold is donated by the Fellars family in Dawson.
Moore arrived at the finish line over an hour after Sass, at 12:06 am, thanking his 11 dogs individually before thanking the crowd gathered to see him in.
"They just didn't have it in them this year," he said of his team. “I thought my team was going to be that team again."
At one point in the race, Sass held a 10-hour lead over Moore before over-sleeping on the trail from Circle to Central. Moore caught up and eventually passed him, but Sass and his team were able to turn it up when it counted most.
"It works! Fall asleep on the trail for 10 hours and you can come in first!" Sass joked.
After thanking all of his Wild and Free Mushing supporters, Sass had a message for his fans.
"Thank you for believing."