Big doings up in the Yukon yesterday, as Austrian dog-sledding superstar Hans Gatt captured his fourth Yukon Quest title. If you’ve ever been curious about the strategies employed by professional mushers during their competitive odysseys, we highly recommend the invaluable “Check Point” blog, which is sort of the ESPN.com of dog sledding. We especially enjoyed the blog’s account of the Quest’s final phase, when subterfuge and grit came into play:
Gatt made a nice move before reaching Pelly, pulling over at the Stepping Stone hospitality stop for two hours, which gave his dogs food, water and rest, and put Mackey and Neff in the less favorable position of breaking trail for a few hours. He followed them in to Pelly Crossing by two hours, let them believe he was taking a longer rest, but hopped up and followed them out of that checkpoint. He was down to nine dogs, about the same number as Mackey and Neff.
Gatt kept on Neff and Mackey’s heels all the way to Carmacks, where they all took off together for the final key run to the mandatory eight-hour layover at Braeburn. That run, through the heat of the day, proved that Gatt and his dogs had a little something left over that the other two could not match. He swept into Braeburn 34 minutes ahead of Mackey and an hour ahead of Neff. That size of a gap is nearly insurmountable at this stage of distance racing, when all teams have slowed to a 6 to 7 mph trot.