The Long Wait Begins in Dawson for Several 2020 Quest Teams

Silhouettes of musher with headlamp and sled dog team running through a narrow, snowy forest trail in the pitch blackness of night.

The top mushers in the Yukon Quest field of 13 have reached the race’s figurative “Eye of the Storm,” a mandatory 36-hour rest period in Dawson City. Official leader Brent Sass and second position Michelle Phillips arrived early this morning. As of this update at 12pm, they were joined within the last half hour by Cody Strathe and Allen Moore.

Quest race organizers recorded video of Michelle Phillips’ 7am (PST) arrival into Dawson. Phillips, one of two Canadians remaining in the race, is back on home soil, but that didn’t stop race officials from asking for her identification at the first checkpoint on the Yukon side of the trail.

QUEST: “I’m just gonna check your passport?”

PHILLIPS: “Oh check my passport, yes of course….”

Mushers in Dawson will have the next day and a half to rejuvenate, tend to their dogs, and enjoy a few hot meals. The Dawson checkpoint is notably the only one on the trail where mushers may receive team assistance directly from their handlers. According to this year’s “Armchair Musher,” Andy Pace, handlers “will spend the next 36 hours tending to every dog obsessively, massaging, feeding, loving, walking and being there with the team.”

Dawson also gives the race leaders opportunities to interact with each other. Phillips, who has spent much of the trail yo-yoing with Sass for first position, told reporters that the atmosphere is more collegial than competitive.

“You know, we’ve been competing against each other for many years… in those situations it’s not like we’re coming to the finish line or anything so you’re just running your race and your team that’s in front of you.”

– Michelle Phillips

Speaking to KUAC Radio yesterday, Sass echoed Phillips’ comments.

“We’re all friends, for me the race hasn’t really begun so… this is the travelling part of it. I was talking to Michelle [Phillips] and Cody [Strathe] at all of the stops.”

– Brent Sass

The race may be briefly paused for the top mushers in this year’s Quest, but another 500 miles of trail awaits them in the wings.

Image at top: A musher along a snowy trail near Dawson City at night. Photo: Seth Adams, Yukon Quest (2019); used with permission.