It was difficult to hold a conversation at the start line of the Yukon Brewing Copper Haul Twister race on Sunday.
There were so many excited dogs eager to race, only yells could overpower the clamour of barking.
Mushers and skijorers were excited too. The event saw the biggest turnout in more than six years for the Dog Powered Sports Association of the Yukon (DPSAY).
A total of 38 sled and skijor teams came out for the races on the old Copper Haul Road, more than twice as many as the Twister season opener on Dec. 9.
Despite the increased competition, the Twister had the same winners top the 10-mile dog sled and skijor categories as last month.
Whitehorse’s Mandy Pearson won in sled division and Whitehorse’s Stefan Wackerhagen won the skijor.
A convenient location and an agreeable trail – part of the Trans Canada Trail – helped boost numbers, said organizer Wackerhagen.
“It’s a convenient place. People who live north and south of Whitehorse don’t have too long of a drive to get here,” said Wackerhagen. “And it’s a really easy trail. People showed up who don’t usually do all the races. They could take inexperienced dogs or inexperienced teams here. There’s enough room for passing and it’s not too hilly.”
Pearson’s recent wins come after about a decade away from competing in the sport.
“I raced dogs a lot when I was a teenager and then I went away to college and got rid of them,” said Pearson. “I then worked training some of Terry Streeper’s dogs a few years back. And I raced his yearlings for a year in 2000.
“I always kept a handful of dogs but didn’t race actively. Then last year the only race I went into was the little, fun Rendezvous race.”
Pearson produced a winning time of 37 minutes and 14 seconds, just over four minutes faster than second place’s Martine Lelevier (41:16). Armin Johnson took third with a time of 42:11.
Pearson also won last year’s Rendezvous sled dog race just two weeks after having a baby and more than a decade after winning the race a first time.
Steady speeds and focused lead dogs are the key, she said.
“They don’t have to be the fastest, but steady. There’s lots of passing on these trails, so if you can get them passing smoothly without a bunch of tangles, you can have a clean run,” said Pearson. “We have sprint dogs, so they’re built to go fast.”
Wackerhagen won the 10-mile skijor event and posted the second-fastest time ever on the course, finishing in 39:26. Cynthia Corriveau (41:43) came second in skijor, matching her result from Dec. 9. Adam Robinson claimed third with a time of 44:58.
Though he consistently places well in skijor races, Wackerhagen feels it’s just a matter of time before someone starts outpacing him.
“I’m not a great skier, and there are faster dogs out there too, so when someone puts those two things together they’re going to be faster,” he said.
Wackerhagen won the 30-mile skijor Carbon Hill Sled Dog Race the last two years, setting a course record last January. He also won the skijor division at the 2011 River Runner 100 and the skijor division of the Percy DeWolfe Memorial Mail Race the same year.
On Sunday he was running three dogs instead of his usual two.
“My plan was to do the River Runner and the Percy (DeWolfe race) with four dogs, but right now she has a bit of an injury, stiffness, and I decided not to run her today – the fourth dog,” said Wackerhagen.
DPSAY decided not to schedule any races in February because it’s already a busy time for mushing. There’s the Carbon Hill race at the end of January, plus there’s Yukon Quest, the River Runner and the Rendezvous races in February.
Pearson and partner Armin Johnson will be hosting the next Twister race early March in the Fox Lake area.
Sled (10 miles)
1st Mandy Pearson – 37:14
2nd Martine Lelevier – 41:16
3rd Armin Johnson – 42:11
4th Aaron Nicholson – 43:06
5th Marine Gastard – 43:44
6th Jess Wood – 44:07
7th Alexandra Rochat – 45:51
8th Mathieu Devred – 47:14
9th Kyla Boivin – 48:06
10th Bastien Ipas – 48:27
11th Magnus Kalternborn – 50:01
12th Elsie Dardoize – 51:01
13th Gerry Willomitzer – 52:04
14th Matt McHugh – 54:22
15th Alison Morham – 55:33
16th Kris Kovacs – 55:40
17th Jade Netzer – 56:01
18th Moira Sauer – 57:02
19th Jacob Heigers – 57:09
20th Jorge Perez – 59:40
21st Martin Haefele – 65:02
Christina Reeves (scratched)
Skijor (10 miles)
1st Stefan Wackerhagen – 39:26
2nd Cynthia Corriveau – 41:43
3rd Adam Robinson – 44:58
4th Amil Dupuis-Rossi – 47:33
5th Alison Morham – 55:33
6th Virginia Sarrazin – 58:00
Recreational (three miles)
1st Christel Bartczak – 12:48
2nd Alexandra Rochat – 13:08
3rd Amelie Janin – 13:45
4th Valerie Bussieres – 14:36
5th Kris Kovacs – 18:05
6th Marie Royer – 18:30
7th Tanya Gates – 19:08
8th MC Leroux – 19:43
9th Janet Keller – 21:24
10th Lynn Cheverie – 06:15
Maren Bradley (scratched)
Kids (three miles)
1st Seth Carey – 13:31
Contact Tom Patrick at firstname.lastname@example.org