Dawson City sled dog fans had extra reason to cheer as the first team arrived at the finish of the Percy DeWolfe Memorial Mail Race on March 24.
Jason Biasetti ended a dry spell of hometown winners with a first-place finish in the 41st annual race. The 42-year-old is the first Dawsonite to win the race since Peter Ledwidge in 2006.
“It feels really good. It has been a goal of mine since we’ve had three dogs and we were able to make it happen,” said Biasetti. “The run was pretty smooth. I had a single leader up there and we had a bit of an issue on some of the ice, a bit of a tangle, and stuff like that, but we sorted it out continued on our way.”
“It feels really good to be a local musher in this awesome community,” he added.
Biasetti completed the 200-mile (321-kilometre) race from Dawson to Eagle, Alaska and back, in 21 hours and 40 minutes to win the race for his first time.
He won the shorter Percy Junior last year and placed third in the full Percy in 2015.
Last week marks Biasetti’s first big win of his career, which includes runs in the Copper Basin 300 and the Silver Sled Race. He raced in the Yukon Quest 300 this year — placing 10th — to qualify for the Quest 1,000, which he hopes to do in 2019.
“I’d like to get more experience, race another 300-mile race, get more experience in for the dogs,” said Biasetti.
Biasetti started with the race maximum of nine dogs and finished with eight. His dog, two-year-old Ali, rode in the sled for about the last 70 kilometres to the finish last week.
“Just so I don’t give him a bad experience … I put him in the sled,” said Biasetti. “When I let my dogs loose in the yard yesterday morning (on Saturday), just to see who’s a bit stiff … the dog I bagged was 100 per cent.”
Whitehorse’s Marine Gastard placed second in the Percy race, which honours a mail carrier who served Dawson by dog sled for more than four decades beginning in the time of the Klondike gold rush.
Gastard reached the finish 19 minutes behind Biasetti to improve on a seventh place finish from 2015, her only other time in the race. The 31-year-old has two mid-distance wins this season, taking first in the Dog Powered Sports Association of the Yukon’s Granger Grind in February and the Silver Sled at the start of this month.
Whitehorse’s Nathaniel Hamlyn moved up two spots from his finish last year, placing third with a time of 22 hours and 54 minutes. The 22-year-old also placed third in the Quest 300 last month.
Race rookie Magnus Kaltenborn of Mount Lorne took fourth with a time of 23:05. Dawson’s Kyla Boivin placed fifth at 23:26.
Rounding out the field was Gerry Willomitzer in sixth (27:37), Gaetan Pierrard in seventh (28:05) and Matt McHugh in eighth (29:39). Montana’s Clayton Perry scratched in Eagle.
The Percy Junior half-distance race also got a first-time winner. Whitehorse’s Alexandra Rochat claimed her first title, completing the Dawson to Fortymile and back in 10 hours and 47 minutes. Rochat, who was in the race for her third time, beat three race rookies for the win.
Kristina Disney took second at 11:09, Pierre Boudreau third at 13:21, and Maeva Waterman fourth at 13:38.
Carcross musher Crispin Studer, who won his fourth straight full Percy title last year, did not compete this year.
“I get a lot of advance from mushers. Crispin Studer, he’s still got the fastest dog team in the Yukon,” said Biasetti. “Crispin and I are buddies and I’ll see him next year.
“All the mushers have information to share and you pick up on all that. It’s good to win, but when mushers share information they have, that’s a really good thing as well.”
Contact Tom Patrick at firstname.lastname@example.org