There were a few major changes to this year’s River Runner 100 race to make it more enjoyable for the mushers, the dogs and the spectators. But Mother Nature had something say about that. Or did she?
What looked like a dreadful day to race, with 80-kilometre gusts of winds and minus 20 temperatures, turned out to be good day on the trails for most in the race, which started late Saturday afternoon in Shipyards Park with the first teams returning around 11 a.m. Sunday.
In fact, before the race even began, eight of the 22 teams withdrew, some of who feared the conditions could be detrimental to their performance in the Iditarod next week. As it turns out, they might have been overly cautious.
“It was super windy in Shipyards Park, but once we hit the river it was a bit better, and as soon as you left the Yukon River and hit the Takhini River, it was already better again,” said musher Crispin Studer. “It was still windy, it was just not as brutal as it was at the start line.”
Studer, who won last year’s inaugural race, then called the Road Runner, was again the first one in, finishing with a time of 15 hours, and 32 minutes. The Carcross musher also won the Yukon Quest 300 two years ago, the Percy DeWolfe Junior in 2008 – and finished second in the longer Percy Memorial Race in 2010 – and won the Carbon Hill Dogsled Race three years in a row, losing this year to Normand Casavant, who finished second on Sunday, 24 minutes back.
“(Casavant) started six minutes ahead of me and about half way through I caught him,” said Studer. “Then we stayed together for another 10 miles – he was right behind me. Then I was able to pull ahead a minute, so I had a seven-minute lead when we restarted in Mendenhall.”
Aside from dogsled, the race is also the longest skijor race in North America and possibly the world, stretching about 160 kilometres from Whitehorse to Mendenhall and back, using the Takhini River, the Dawson Overland Trail, cutting through the Ibex Valley.
Although conditions improved, it was still tough going – especially for the skijorers.
While only one dogsled team dropped out during the race, only one skijorer finished it.
Whitehorse’s Stefan Wackerhagen, one of just three skijorers to start the race after one withdrew, completed the journey in 15 hours, 32 minutes.
“It got nicer, it wasn’t as extreme as it looked at the start,” said Wackerhagen. “It was unfortunate that some people didn’t start, but it was understandable with what it looked like in Whitehorse.”
Wackerhagen, who won the Carbon Hill for the two-to-four-dog category in January, as well as three Copper Haul Twister races this year, arrived at Mendenhall with about a 45-minute lead over last year’s winner Gaetan Pierrard. In Mendenhall Cynthia Corriveau, the third skijorer in the race, had to withdraw after being forced to drop a dog, putting her under the minimum.
On the way back to Whitehorse, Pierrard was forced out of the race with a broken ski boot.
The next race to be hosted by the Dog Powered Sports Association of the Yukon will be an eight-mile Copper Haul Twisters race on March 13th.
“The organization was really well done and it was a really good race. I enjoyed the race very much,” added Studer. “It was really well done.
“(The trail) was blown over, but you could see they put a lot of effort to put in a good trail.”
1st Crispin Studer – 11:09
2nd Normand Casavant – 11:33
3rd Karine Grenier – 12:25
4th Pierre Duc – 12:46
5th Brian Wilmshurst – 13:53
6th Claudia Wickert – 13:53:05
7th Marine Gastard – 14:40
8th Alexandra Rochat – 14:58
9th Debbie Knight – 15:07
10th Ryan Kinna – 16:02
11th David Mason – 16:46
1st Stefan Wackerhagen – 15:32
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