The Summit Quest 300 mushers worked their way to the finish line in Central Monday evening and Tuesday, with the final two mushers expected on Tuesday evening.
The racers who hit the track late Monday were struck by a bold northern lights show during their final 70 mile run, while the riders were slowed down by fresh snow on Tuesday.
The top rookie this year was Adam Lindenmuth from Willow, who finished fourth under the bright northern lights on Monday at 11:17 p.m.
“I can’t think of a better way to finish a race than to do that,” he said.
Lindenmuth had a terrifying experience early in the race when he fell on the wrong side of the Rosebud Summit. So he took an additional two-hour break at the Mile 101 checkpoint to recover. This extension meant he only had a mandatory four hour break at the final Circle checkpoint, which allowed him to sneak in front of others for the final stretch.
When Lindenmuth spoke of the two 70-mile runs along Birch Creek to and from the Circle Checkpoint, he admitted that two consecutive 1970s with a four-hour break were a bit of a gamble.
“I was ready to rest about the compulsory participation in the Circle, but the dogs all loved it. … Lots of these guys, their first race was the Copper a few months ago. Lots of unproven dogs that turned out to be rock stars, ”he said.
Former Quest 300 champion Ben Good of Fairbanks secured fifth place and was the last musher to win prize money after overtaking rookie Eddie Burke Jr. of Nenana about 15 miles from the finish. Finished well on Tuesday at 12:35 a.m., just two minutes before Burke Jr.
Getting Good’s top five placement, despite an additional break of roughly three hours throughout the race, was a strategy most mushers avoided due to long mandatory breaks at the checkpoints.
“That was the race plan all along because I have a young team. I wanted them to gain some confidence,” said Good, adding that this was the first 300 mile race for his two leaders, Foxy and Chummy.
Well said, the Aurora Borealis display on Monday night was the best he has ever seen and was sure to be the racing highlight. “Trying to focus on the dogs and keep them lined up while watching the lights was just a phenomenal enema.”
Burke Jr. tried to be able to overtake Good again before the finish line until his team twisted: “And with that brief tangle, he was able to break the draft and give me a few minutes head start,” said Burke.
Even so, Burke Jr. attributed a notable breed to his inexperienced canine team. “You never ran 15 miles before this race, you never ran at night,” he said.
Summit Quest’s Fairbanks rookie Dan Powell also had puppies. Powell previously took a long 12-hour break in Central after a tough ride at Eagle Summit. He reached the finish in Central on Tuesday morning in eighth place.
On the descent from Eagle Summit, Powell said his dogs got off the trail and encountered some ice. “The dogs all fell on the ice and the sledge fell on the ice and I fell on the ice. It was a bit chaotic there for a minute, ”he said.
The hardest part of Powell’s race was moving on after the fall, after which he dropped three dogs. “The pups jump back, they are super dramatic with injuries like this, but they also recover very quickly,” he said.
Powell was also treated to the “incredible portrayal of Aurora,” but he chose a different racing highlight. “The fact that it wasn’t particularly cold on the second leg at Birch Creek, I would say that was the highlight.”
Contact Robin Wood at [email protected]