When mushers are asked how they won a race, more often than not they give all the credit to the dogs.
They say things like, “I was just holding on for the ride” and “they did all the work.”
There’s definitely something to that.
A rather inexperienced musher and a seasoned team verified comments like those at the Carbon Hill Sled Dog Race in Mount Lorne on Sunday.
Despite being only her second-ever race, Carolin Leipert, along with a veteran team, outpaced a field of weathered mushers – including Yukon Quest racers – to win the 30-mile sled division at the 22nd annual event hosted by the Dog Powered Sports Association of the Yukon (DPSAY).
“I don’t know what to say – I’m surprised,” said the 26-year-old. “When I came in at the finish line a woman came over and said, ‘You won it.’
“It felt fast, but I’m still surprised.”
Leipert wasn’t just using experienced dogs, many were ones who had won that very race before. She was pulled by eight dogs from a kennel run by Yukon Quest veteran William Kleedehn and five-time Carbon Hill champ Crispin Studer.
“My boyfriend William Kleedehn … shares a team with Crispin Studer, so those are Crispin’s dogs,” said Leipert.
“William is supposed to run some races this year, like the Cinnamon Bun (Run Race) and some local races, and he asked me if I wanted to do it (the Carbon Hill) again … I said, why not?
“Last year I had the B team – Crispin was running the A team … It was a little bit different because I had the fast dogs this year. It was kind of scary.”
Leipert, who placed sixth in the 30-mile division last year, sped to first with a time of two hours, 12 minutes and 10 seconds.
Fox Lake’s Armin Johnson in second at 2:17:43 and 2013 winner Martine Lelevier, also from Fox Lake, placed third just four seconds back of Johnson.
A total of 25 sled teams raced the 30-mile division on Sunday, 13 more than last year and 15 more than in 2014.
“Maybe because the 10-mile was a new trail,” said DPSAY president Virginia Sarrazin, hazarding a guess.
“It was a success again. It always brings people you don’t see at other races just because it’s the Carbon Hill! It’s also in a location where there’s a lot of mushers and it’s easier for them to get there.”
While the 30-mile sled division more than doubled from last year, the 30-mile skijor shrunk by two-thirds.
Golden Horn’s Cynthia Corriveau was the only to take up the challenge. Last year’s winner, Katherine Sheepway, instead raced in the 30-mile sled division finishing 11th.
Corriveau, who won the division in 2010, finished with a time of 2:38:46 – good enough for 17th overall among the sleds.
“I think I knew I’d be by myself on the 30-mile this year, but hopefully we’ll get more people for the bigger and longer races,” said Corriveau. “Right now it’s changing with skijoring. We have a lot of people in the short distance who get comfortable and experienced and possibly they will want to try the 30-mile another year.”
There was another shift in dynamics in the race: at the same time the 30-mile sled division saw what could be a record turnout, the 10-mile sled division saw what could be a record low.
Only two teams hit the trail for the division, down from nine the two previous years and 17 in 2013.
Tagish’s Dave Johnson came in first at 45:09, well ahead of second place’s Janet Keller at 1:31:08.
The 10-mile skijor saw a mush less dramatic fall, going from seven last year to five on Sunday.
Ibex Valley’s Sarrazin defended her title with a time of 49:08, 19 minutes slower than last year. Katherine Sandiford came second at 54:42 and Jess Wood third at 57:56.
With just one dog pulling, Sarrazin was also the top skijorer in the six-mile recreational race, coming in at 29:29, just three seconds behind overall winner Jonas Loew in a sled with four dogs.
“That really surprised me because he’s a really young dog and he’d never done it by himself,” said Sarrazin of her dog Ranger. “He was flying.”
Carlos Berenguer placed second for sleds and third overall at 33:50 and Maren Bradley came second for skijors and fourth overall at 38:24.
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1st Carolin Leipert – 2:38:46
2nd Armin Johnson – 2:17:43
3rd Martine Lelevier – 2:17:47
4th Gerry Willomitzer – 2:19:47
5th Marine Gastard – 2:20:15
6th Magnus Kaltenborn – 2:22:50
7th Jean-March Champeval – 2:24:47
8th Thomas Verin – 2:25:12
9th Luc Tweddell – 2:28:02
10th Alexandra Rochet – 2:29:52
11th Katherine Sheepway – 2:30:42
12th Matt Rydholm – 2:35:52
13th Jerry Joinson – 2:36:16
14th Jean-Francois Bisson – 2:36:18
15th Yasmine Mahdhaoui – 2:36:46
16th Nathaniel Hamlyn – 2:27:03
17th Jade Nezter – 2:39:52
18th Lori Tweddell – 2:45:05
19th Jacob Heigers – 2:50:23
20th Louve Tweddell – 2:53:35
21st Anthony Joannes – 2:58:32
22nd Erin Stevens – 3:05:46
23rd Tamra Reynolds – 3:14:37
24th Krys March – 3:40:52
1st Cynthia Corriveau – 2:38:46
1st Dave Johnson – 45:09
2nd Janet keller – 1:31:08
1st Virginia Sarrazin – 49:08
2nd Katherine Sandiford – 54:42
3rd Jess Wood – 57:56
4th Adam Robinson – 59:12
5th Lynn Cheverie – 1:26:28
Six-mile rec class
1st Jonas Loew – 29:26 (sled)
2nd Virginia Sarrazin – 29:29 (ski)
3rd Carlos Berenguer – 33:50 (sled)
4th Maren Bradley – 38:24 (ski)
5th Jonathan Alsbergher – 51:38 (sled)
6th Tyler Heal – 1:05:39 (ski)