Marcelle Fressineau of Matawin, Quebec, drives her team down the Pelly River after leaving the Pelly Crossing, Yukon, checkpoint Wednesday, Feb. 16, 2005, during the Yukon Quest International Sled Dog Race. Fressineau is the last musher to leave Pelly. The leaders are expected into Dawson, City, Yukon, the half way point, Thursday evening. There are 19 mushers still in the 1,000 mile race from Whitehorse, Yukon, to Fairbanks, Alaska.
AP Photo/Fairbanks Daily News-Mi
FAIRBANKS (AP) Jon Little of Kasilof was the first musher to leave the Pelly Crossing checkpoint and tackle the 200-mile stretch to Dawson City in the Yukon Quest International Sled Dog Race.
Little left the checkpoint at 4:47 p.m. Tuesday. He said his plan was to use four rest stops, while some other mushers might attempt to cut up the 200-mile trek with three rest stops. The long stretch runs through the Yukon's Black Hills.
Kasilof's Lance Mackey was the second musher out of Pelly Crossing, departing 39 minutes after Little.
Like Little, Yukon musher Gerry Willomitzer of Shallow Bay talked about the importance of rest.
''Overall we have 50/50 run-rest time,'' said Willomitzer, who held first place going into Pelly at 9:57 a.m. Tuesday. ''Things are going really good. I have no complaints.''
Twenty teams remain in the race. Canadian musher Daniel Bourassa scratched late Tuesday in Carmacks.
Included in the run is a 4,000-foot climb over King Solomon's Dome, the highest elevation reached on the trail and the first of four high points before the finish in Fairbanks.
Being the longest period between checkpoints, mushers have to decide how best to make the run and ensure a strong finish going into the race's halfway point and mandatory 36-hour layover at Dawson City.
It was clear Tuesday that mushers were thinking about how they were going to face the challenge.
''You just want to stick with your game plan,'' said Healy musher Dave Dalton, who drove the seventh team into Pelly Tuesday. ''There's no incentive to get in to Dawson with the lead.''
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