Whitehorse’s Normand Casavant had the goal of finishing the Yukon Quest with a team of happy dogs. They were happy, said Casavant, and he was too.
“I wanted to finish with a happy team and it’s a great experience for my dogs because that’s exactly what happened,” he said. “(From) the last checkpoint, I took 30 minutes from the guy (Markus Ingebretsen) in front of me, so the dogs were still in good shape.”
Casavant reached the finish in Fairbanks, Alaska, at 2:11 p.m. on Tuesday to place seventh in the 1,600-kilometre race from Whitehorse that began Feb. 2.
The 50-year-old was the first Yukoner – and Canadian – to finish this year with a total time of 10 days, two hours and 56 minutes.
It was Casavant’s third Yukon Quest. He placed 10th in both 2009 and 2010.
“It went real well. I’m really, really proud of that,” said Casavant. “It’s always good to be closer to number one.
“I went there with a bunch of rookie dogs; I only had two veteran dogs from 2010, the rest were young dogs around three-and-a-half years old.
“I only trained 16 dogs this year and I did it with a team of 14. So it’s not a big kennel.”
Whitehorse’s Susan Rogan, the only Quest rookie out of the five Yukoners in the race, snagged 10th as she reached Fairbanks Wednesday morning at 1:42 a.m.
Rogan was the first Yukon musher to reach Dawson City, the race’s halfway point, last week in eighth.
Casavant reached Dawson in 10th.
“I started moving faster after Eagle, (Alaska),” said Casavant. “My plan was to open the mushing between Eagle and Circle (City checkpoint) and that’s what I did. I really slowed down in the first part between Whitehorse and Dawson… I didn’t want my dogs to go too fast.”
Tagish’s Ed Hopkins reached the finish at 7:20 a.m. Wednesday morning to place 11th.
As of press time on Wednesday morning, Carcross’ Crispin Studer was in 13th and Dawson’s Brian Wilmshurst was in 17th.
There were still nine teams on the trail heading to Fairbanks.
Allen Moore of Two Rivers, Alaska, won the Quest on Monday.
Moore crossed the finish line at 6:54 a.m., one hour and 16 minutes ahead of defending champion Hugh Neff of Fairbanks.
“It’s great when a plan comes together,” said Moore, who finished with a time of eight days, 18 hours and 57 minutes.
Finishing first is “what our ultimate goal has always been,” said Moore, 55. “So it’s great to have a goal like a 1,000-mile race and win it.”
With the win, Moore pockets a cheque for $18,930. He also gets redemption after losing to Neff by just 26 seconds last year.
“He was due,” said Neff, 45. “The whole race, in a bizarre way, I was hoping he would win because I knew he was pretty shook-up after what happened last year.”
Eureka, Alaska’s Brent Sass came in for third just before 6 p.m. on Monday, ahead of Big Lake, Alaska’s Jake Berkowitz in fourth.
General, a dog belonging to Berkowitz, was the race’s only fatality so far this year. According to the Quest’s head veterinarian, Kathleen McGill, a necropsy showed the dog died from a twisted intestine.
Placing fifth was Rookie of the Year Scott Smith of Willow, Alaska, entering Fairbanks at 3:55 a.m. on Tuesday.
Five teams have scratched from the race, including four-time champ Lance Mackey of Fairbanks, who dropped out at Dawson on Feb. 7.
Casavant hopes to race again in next year’s Quest.
“That is my plan for sure,” said Casavant. “I will need more help. So I have to find a sponsor.”
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