NOME – Brent Sass won the 50th Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race, the first for a three-time Yukon Quest Champion.
Sass sprinted to the finish line on Noms Front Street at 5:38 a.m. on Tuesday, wrapping up his nearly 1,000-mile journey in 8 days, 14 hours, 38 minutes and 43 seconds.
The 42-year-old, originally from Minnesota, had 11 dogs in their seat belts when he crossed under the ornate arch to cheer, whistles from onlookers lining up his final chute under a still dark sky.
“It’s fantastic,” Sass said when asked about his first win. “It’s a dream come true.”
He was presented with a large check for $50,000 and posed for photos with Morello and Slater’s lead dogs. He said he was “awesome, awesome, very proud” of his dogs: “It’s all on them. They did an excellent job throughout the race.”
“Every one of these dogs I’ve raised are puppies, and we’ve been working toward that goal all the time, and we’re here,” he said in a cracked voice. “This is madness.”
He had snow in his beard as he got off his sled, a wide grin on his face as he faced the cheering crowd. Describing the high winds as he ran from White Mountain to Nome, he said, “It was a lot of work, but a lot of fun.”
Sass’ father, Mark Sass, stood near the curly arch in anticipation of his son’s arrival before sunrise and hugged him at the finish line.
“He worked really, really, really hard for this,” said Mark Sass.
Forty-nine soldiers have entered Iditarod this year, and five have withdrawn so far. Dallas Seyves, SAS’s closest and fiercest rival, narrowed the gap between them early on Tuesday, but didn’t get close enough to overtake SAS, who took the lead from mid-race onwards.
“Being able to keep him away from the whole race and race against the best man in the business makes that win even sweeter,” Sass said.
Sephie, 35, arrived at a sleepover with seven dogs in their seat belts an hour and eight minutes after the SAS. Sevy’s father, Mitch, is a three-time champion and is competing this year, and his grandfather Dan ran The first Iditarod in 1973. The win would have given Dallas the record for most Iditarod wins, and he has said that Planning to drop out of the race After this year.
Behind Sass and Sivvi, the racers in the chase group were taking mandatory eight-hour stops in White Mountain, 77 miles from Nome, and weren’t expected to cross the finish line until nightfall.
Tuesday’s win came based on SAS’s third-place finish in 2021, their best result since entering their first game at Iditarod in 2012, when they finished 13th and were named Player of the Year.
When he got down to business, he set out to win the Thousand Mile Race at Yukon Quest and Iditarod. He’s worked towards this goal for years and can now, finally, check it off his list.
“It’s been overwhelming, the support I’ve had across the state, around the world for the past six months,” Sass said Tuesday morning.
Born in Excelsior, Minnesota, and raised in the Twin Cities region, Sass came to Alaska in 1998 to attend college in Fairbanks, where he skied competitively.
Sass lives and runs his wild, free, year-round home from a home in Eureka, a remote area 150 miles from Fairbanks and 30 miles from the small town of Manly Hot Springs, the nearest community.
This year, Sass closed his home so he could live and train in a shack near Fairbanks, in part so there was a bit of chores to keep up as he honed his dog team and competed in races.
Four of the 14 dogs that Sass started with Iditarod this year are newbies who have never run into my sleep. Its leaders, Slater and Morello, are from characters taken from Richard Linklater’s 1993 film “Dazed and Confused” and the Netflix show “Orange is the New Black” respectively.
Before the start of this year’s race, Sass described what it takes to win the Iditarod.
“Many things have to come together,” he said during the ceremonial opening in Anchorage. “You must have a lot of luck, you must be prepared and you must execute perfectly.”
This year marks Iditarod’s final return to Nome after last year’s course Changed to be a round trip track From Deshka Landing, near Willow, in response to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
In the finish zone, Iditarod CEO Rob Auerbach said getting to Nome is the core of the racing journey.
“The energy here is huge,” Auerbach said after the SAS win.
Zacharias Hughes reported from Anchorage and Morgan Krakow reported from my sleep. Mark Lister contributed reporting from Anchorage.