ANCHORAGE — Brent Sass hadn’t seen another musher for hundreds of miles, a pretty good sign when you’re leading the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race.
Sass arrived in the checkpoint at White Mountain at 11:05 a.m. Monday and picked up $2,500 for being the first to make it to the community.
White Mountain is where mushers have a mandatory eight-hour layover before they make the final 77-mile push along Alaska’s western coastline and the Bering Sea’s ice to the finish line in Nome.
Asked by a film crew for the Iditarod Insider website at the Koyuk checkpoint Sunday night whether he is letting himself start to think about the finish line, Sass responded: “No way, not quite yet.”
“We’re not there yet,” Sass said. “It’s been a good run, but he’s still right back there.”
Sass was referring to Dallas Seavey, the five-time champion who has been running in second place behind Sass.
Sass may have felt Seavey’s presence behind him, but he hadn’t set eyes on him or any other musher since taking command of the nearly 1,000-mile race across the Alaska wilderness late last week.
“I haven’t seen anyone since Cripple,” he said of the checkpoint 379 miles behind Koyuk on the trail.
That changed when Seavey pulled into White Mountain about 21⁄2 hours after Sass to begin his eight-hour mandated break before he can get back on the trail to Nome.
Forty-nine mushers started the Iditarod on March 6 in Willow. Since then, five have withdrawn from the race, including Josh McNeal.
He dropped out of the race Sunday night at the Galena checkpoint, saying it was in the best interest of his dog team.