FAIRBANKS, Alaska (AP) — Turns out the fourth time was a charm for a 25-year-old Alaska man who won the Yukon Quest International Sled Dog Race Tuesday.
Matt Hall of Two Rivers crossed the finish line in downtown Fairbanks just after noon, the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner reported (http://bit.ly/2lIfWu1). It's Hall's first win in four tries in the race that goes between Fairbanks and Whitehorse, Yukon, where the 1,000-mile Quest started Feb. 4.
He finished fourth in the Yukon Quest last year after scratching in 2015. He was third in 2014.
Hall said in a news conference at the finish line that as he went through Two Rivers near the end of the race, he could see three groups of people with flickering headlights that came out to cheer him on.
"That was pretty special," he said. "Then we rounded a corner, and there's these signs just as far as you could see on each side of the trail for every musher in the race."
Hall took command of the race when then-leader Brent Sass had problems with his team. Sass scratched in Central, which gave Hall a comfortable lead over his nearest competitor.
He said the toughest part of the race for him was a stretch on Birch Creek. Temperatures were about 50 below zero, although Hall doesn't carry a thermometer because he doesn't want to know about temperatures that low.
"I was really, really tired at that point," he said. "It was just mentally a challenge. The dogs were performing real good — they were like 'Yea, we got this boss,' but for me it was a bit of a challenge."
The world's most famous sled dog race, the Iditarod, will have its ceremonial start in Anchorage on March 4. Poor snow conditions in the Alaska Range have forced the official start to Fairbanks on March 6. The winner of the nearly thousand-mile race is expected in Nome about nine days later.
This story has been corrected to say Matt Hall won the race on Tuesday, not Monday.