FAIRBANKS, Alaska (AP) — Musher Hugh Neff beat Allen Moore by just 26 seconds on Tuesday in one of the closest finishes ever in the 1,000-mile Yukon Quest International Sled Dog Race.
Neff crossed the finish line in Whitehorse, Yukon, at 5:14 a.m., Yukon time, for a time of nine days, 16 hours and five minutes, according to the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner (http://bit.ly/ysvcWh ).
The Tok musher was able to make up a 42-minute deficit in the last 100 miles from Braeburn to defeat Moore, who led almost the entire second half of the race from Fairbanks to Whitehorse.
Neff will pick up $28,395 for winning the race — his first victory in 20 attempts in races of 1,000 miles.
“I’m not sleeping anytime soon,” he said. “This is my first win. To do it here, it’s a really special feeling.”
Neff once lived in Annie Lake, just outside of Whitehorse. He said the final stretch of trail was familiar training ground — an advantage given the close race.
“I know every inch of that trail,” he said. “Every hill I was going up, every centimeter, I would be running up.”
Last year, Neff led the Quest for three-quarters of the race but stalled on Eagle Summit and had to withdraw.
Neff caught Moore 20 miles from the Whitehorse finish line. Neff said he turned on his headlamp to be a gentleman, but Moore responded by taking off and fighting to maintain his lead by double ski-poling toward the Whitehorse finish.
Neff’s speedier team caught him with five miles to go. Moore of Two Rivers said the two stayed within 100 yards of each other from there to the finish chute.
Despite the close finish, Moore was in good spirits talking to reporters. He said he ran as a good a race as he could, but Neff simply had the faster team.
“Any kind of mistake and the other would have won,” he said.
Information from: Fairbanks Daily News-Miner, http://www.newsminer.com