DAWSON CITY – Allen Moore, a two-time Yukon Quest champion, arrived here Wednesday evening in first place – but he isn’t taking anything for granted.
Moore and his full team of 14 dogs surged into Dawson at around 8:30 p.m. local time with a large crowd gathered outside the checkpoint to watch the Two Rivers, Alaska musher arrive and begin his 36-hour mandatory layover.
Moore said he isn’t going to sit on his lead and re-create the past.
“I’ve been here first before and got beat by 26 seconds,” Moore said in a media scrum after crossing the line.
Also a Fairbanks-to-Whitehorse year, Moore was in the lead at Dawson – and lost at the finish line to Hugh Neff.
“If things keep going the way they are, I have a good chance. But there is 500 more miles to go, and anything could happen,” Moore said.
After getting beat at the line in the closest finish in Quest history, the 60-year-old out of SP Kennel won the 2013 Quest – where he got payback on Neff passing him after Dawson – and the 2014 Quest. In that race, he was in the lead at the halfway point.
Since Moore was passed in 2012 after the halfway checkpoint, only two leaders in Dawson have gone on to win the race – Moore in 2014 and Brent Sass in 2015.
But Moore has shown no signs of slowing down up until this point.
He stopped at the Clinton Creek hospitality stop for a four-hour rest Wednesday morning, then made the trek to Dawson.
“They look awesome,” Moore said of his team. “They’re perky, so I couldn’t ask for any better.”
When he arrived, both Paige Drobny and Matt Hall were stopped in Clinton Creek, and left shortly afterward to make the 54-mile trip.
Moore is still running with all 14 dogs, something he said he is grateful for, but again won’t take for granted moving forward.
“It’s a huge motivational factor that I didn’t hurt any dogs yet,” he said. “That could change really quickly. It could go the other way.”
Moore said he has 13 lead dogs on his team that he has been switching up in the first half of the race to lead the brigade.
The final charge into Dawson was led by Commando and Dutch up front, where Moore was greeted by an enthusiastic crowd in the intense cold.
He was immediately hugged by his wife, Aliy Zirkle, who was the first and only woman to win the Quest back in 2000.
When Moore and his team glided through the checkpoint arches, they were greeted by race officials to ensure he was still travelling with the mandatory equipment.
Also on hand were race vets, who checked on the dogs before they went to the dog yard.
During the 36-hour layover all the dog teams will be having official vet checks before they journey off in the second half of the race, which began last Saturday in Fairbanks.
Arriving first, Moore will be awarded with two ounces of gold as long as his team completes the race in Whitehorse.
The main factor so far has been the cold weather, Moore noted, with the temperature sitting at -37 C upon his arrival.
Rest is something both he and his dogs are running low on. Moore said he has gotten only three hours and 15 minutes of sleep since last Friday.
So how will Moore be spending his 36 hours in Dawson?
“I’ll be sleeping and eating as much as possible. Try to get good and rested for the next half,” he said. “It may even get cold.”