After a year off of racing, Carcross musher Crispin Studer decided to get one in before the thaw. He did, after all, have a title to defend.
The 35-year-old won his fourth straight title at the 40th annual Percy DeWolfe Memorial Mail Race in Dawson City last Friday.
“The trail was very bumpy. They put a lot of work into it, but it was still a very technical trail. Other than that, it was pretty good,” said Studer. “I had a flawless run, which is my goal. I didn’t have a single injury and no dog problems, and that’s what I was hoping for.”
Studer claimed first, completing the 338-kilometre race from Dawson to Eagle, Alaska and back in 21 hours and 39 minutes.
It’s his fifth Percy title in total, having won the race in 2011 as well.
While Studer took most of the season off to finish construction of his new home, he team from Pika Kennel kept fairly busy.
The Pika dogs were also winners at the Carbon Hill Sled Dog Race in January. Carcross’ William Kleedehn then ran the team to win the 2016 Cinnamon Bun Run at the end of February.
“William had all the race dogs pretty much all season and he wasn’t able to race this weekend so I jumped in,” said Studer.
In addition to winning the Percy last year, Studer and his speedy team won at the Carbon Hill, the Silver Sled and the Cinnamon Bun Run. So, in other words, it’s been a while since his dogs have lost a race.
“I’m pretty lucky to have good core of dogs here,” said Studer. “You have to have good bloodlines … I don’t do anything fancy with training … Feeding is super basic: meat, kibble and water.
“The majority of it is really good bloodlines.”
Four-time Yukon Quest champ and two-time Percy winner Hans Gatt of Whitehorse placed second, 23 minutes behind Studer.
Whitehorse’s Alexander Serdjukov took third with a time of 22:24 and was named Rookie of the Year.
Dawson’s Kyla Boivin placed fourth at 24:51; Wisconsin’s Laura Neese fifth at 27:47; and Whitehorse’s Gaetan Pierrard came sixth at 27:53 and picked up the Vet Care Award.
Shallow Bay’s Gerry Willomitzer scratched from the race in Eagle and was given the Sportsmanship Award.
“I had a 20-minute lead after 50 miles and then it was between 20 and 25 minutes for the rest of the race,” said Studer. “I knew if I didn’t have to load dogs – didn’t have injured dogs – I’d be tough to catch. So I made sure I had leaders up front running just the right speed – not too fast, not put the dogs over the edge by running too fast a tiny bit.”
In the half-distance Percy Junior race, from Dawson to 40 Mile and back, Dawson’s Jason Biasetti took first with a time of 11:50 and received the Vet Care Award.
Whitehorse’s Matt Rydholm (11:56) placed second and Dawson’s Matt McHugh (12:53), just two seconds ahead of Dawson’s Brian Wilmshurst. Haines Junction’s Krys March took in the red lantern.
“This was the 40th annual Percy DeWolfe and Percy himself carried the mail from Dawson to Eagle for 40 years, so it was a special anniversary for everyone involved,” said race president Anna Claxton.
“One notable thing was the effort it took to get the trail in this year … A bunch of great and really dedicated volunteers from Dawson stepped up and did an amazing amount of work. We finally calculated it and it took over 200 hours to get the trail in to Eagle. Without that this race wouldn’t have happened.”
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