CIRCLE CITY (AP) -- Defending champion Hans Gatt was holding onto a comfortable lead in the Yukon Quest International Sled Dog Race.
Gatt continued his lonely journey up the trail Tuesday, more than five hours ahead of his nearest competitor. He left the Circle City checkpoint at 12:08 a.m. The next musher out of Circle was Hugh Neff, who left at 5:05 a.m.
Both Gatt and Neff were headed for the Central checkpoint, 75 miles down the trail. Central is just 177 miles from the finish line in Fairbanks.
''It would be nice to travel with somebody, but I've got no choice. I'm on my own,'' Gatt told the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner. ''That's OK. That doesn't bother me.''
Since Gatt has a comfortable lead, he's been able to rest his dogs longer than he would have if it were a tight race.
''If I don't make a big mistake, I don't think anybody can catch me,'' he said. ''I don't expect anybody to make big moves, you know it's 50, 40 below out there. If somebody's going to cut rest now, he's going to be in trouble in a hurry. You can't push the dogs right now. There's no way; they need a lot of rest.''
William Kleedehn and Thomas Tetz left Circle City at 5:40 a.m. and 6:40 a.m. respectively. Among the frontrunners, John Schandelmeier and Martin Massicotte remained in Circle, resting their dogs.
Nineteen mushers remain in the 1,000-mile race between Whitehorse and Fairbanks.
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