ANCHORAGE (AP) -- Three mushers were battling for the lead Sunday halfway through the 1,000-mile Yukon Quest International Sled Dog Race.
David Sawatzy of Healy, Tim Osmar of Clam Gulch and William Kleedehn of Carcross, Yukon Territory, left the Fortymile checkpoint at 1 a.m.
Andrew Lesh of Fairbanks left Fortymile one hour after Sawatzky. Joran Freeman of Two Rivers was about two hours behind Lesh, and John Schandelmeier of Paxson Lake left 40 minutes after Freeman.
Eight other mushers had reached the Fortymile checkpoint but had not left to continue the 100 miles to Eagle, the first checkpoint in the United States.
The trail between Dawson City and Eagle requires mushers to go over the 3,420-foot American Summit. Dog teams in the past have gotten lost in whiteouts on the treeless summit.
Race observer Dave Monson, a former Quest champion, said Osmar's team was moving particularly well.
Thirty-one teams began the race last Sunday from Whitehorse and headed to Fairbanks. As of Sunday, four teams had scratched including Sig Stormo, a rookie from Soldotna, who withdrew after arriving in Dawson City on Sunday carrying two dogs in his sled.
Teams were required to take a mandatory 36-hour layover in Dawson City, so those that continued were well-rested for the leg to Eagle via the Yukon River.
Dieter Zirngibl of Tanana was at the back of the pack Sunday. He left the Stepping Stone checkpoint, more than 200 miles back, at 8:41 a.m. Zirngibl, a 50-year-old sea captain, said his goal was to finish the race with happy dogs. Zirngibl received the Red Lantern award for finishing last during his rookie year in 1995.
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