Gatt maintains Yukon Quest lead

Posted: Monday, February 17, 2003

EAGLE (AP) -- Defending champion Hans Gatt was the first musher to leave Eagle on Sunday morning as he maintained his lead in the Yukon Quest International Sled Dog Race.

Gatt, of Atlin, British Columbia, reached Eagle at 5:47 p.m. Saturday and told checkpoint volunteers he would leave shortly.

But with temperatures dropping to 40 below zero, Gatt stayed until 1:47 a.m. Sunday morning before heading to Circle City 158 miles away. The finish line is in Fairbanks, 410 miles from Circle.

Gatt arrived and departed from Eagle with 10 dogs and was expected into Circle early Monday morning.

As of 6 p.m. Sunday night, 10 other mushers had crossed the Alaska-Canada border and reached Eagle: William Kleedehn, Thomas Tetz, John Schandelmeier, Hugh Neff, Martin Massicotte, Bill Steyer, Dan Kaduce, Frank Turner, Peter Ledwidge and Andy Elsberg.

Kleedehn arrived at 11:38 p.m. and stayed until 6:36 a.m. Sunday -- long enough to get a look at Gatt and his dogs before the leader left.

He was followed out of Eagle by Tetz at 7:56 a.m. Schandelmeier and Neff left at 8:04 a.m.

Massicotte, a French Canadian from Quebec competing in his first distance race, dropped from second place and left in sixth at 8:10 a.m.

The temperature Sunday afternoon was 22 below zero but race officials expected the temperature to again dip to 40 below overnight.

Along with the cold temperatures, however, the prediction was for clear skies, a full moon and northern lights, giving mushers extended visibility for night travel.

Nineteen mushers remained in the race Sunday evening. Jim Hendrick and Paul Geoffrion both had yet to leave Dawson City.

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