Frontrunners in Quest leave Pelly Crossing

Posted: Tuesday, February 11, 2003

PELLY CROSSING, Yukon (AP) -- Mushers in the Yukon Quest International Sled Dog Race were leaving the Pelly Crossing checkpoint Tuesday, headed for the next checkpoint at Dawson 203 miles away.

Martin Massicotte of Quebec was first out of Pelly Crossing early Tuesday, leaving the checkpoint at 5:11 a.m. Yukon Time. Hans Gatt of Atlin, B.C. was 23 minutes behind him. John Schandelmeier of Paxson left at 5:51 a.m. and Thomas Tetz of Carcross left at 5:59 a.m.

Rounding out the top teams were William Kleedehn of Carcross and Hugh Neff of Coldfoot, both leaving at 6:09 a.m.

By midmorning 10 teams had left the Pelly Crossing checkpoint for Dawson, 203 miles up the trail. The stretch between Pelly Crossing and Dawson is the longest distance between checkpoints in the thousand-mile race to Nome. Race officials said overflow and ice are common along the first 100 miles of this section of trail.

This year's race was shortened by about 79 miles after race officials decided to skip the section of trail between Braeburn and Carmacks, due to a lack of snow dangerously rough conditions. The race was restarted Monday at Carmacks.

Twenty-two mushers remain in the race. Alden West, a rookie from Fairbanks, has become the first musher to scratch.

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