Dawson City will have more representation than any other Yukon community in next month’s 31st annual Yukon Quest.
Dawson’s Brian Wilmshurst and Jean-Denis Britten have registered for the 1,600-kilometre sled dog race between Fairbanks, Alaska and Whitehorse.
The only other Yukoner to register before Friday’s deadline was Whitehorse’s Normand Casavant, Yukon’s top finisher in last year’s Quest.
A total of 21 teams are registered for this year’s race, down from 26 last year.
Five Canadian teams are signed up, including the three Yukoners.
There are also three past champions, including defending champ Allen Moore of Two Rivers, Alaska.
Next month will be Wilmshurst’s third consecutive Quest and third in total.
Conversely, it will be his second time running the race from Fairbanks to Whitehorse.
“I’ve seen both ways now,” said Wilmshurst. “It’s a great 1,000 miles. The scenery is great, you get to see mountain ranges and Yukon River. I’m just excited to get back out there and relive the trail again.”
The 32-year-old placed 17th last year and 16th in 2012. Wilmshurst, who took up dog sledding in 2009, will be racing dogs from his B-Line Racing Kennels.
“I remember my first year I was scared about going over Eagle summit and about some of the stories you hear about on the trail,” said Wilmshurst. “This year I’m still nervous about a few of them, at least I know what to expect and how to deal with them. And my training gets better every year too, which makes it a lot easier.
“I think everyone is back from last year’s team. So that’s nice too: knowing that your dogs have been through it before and they know what to expect and what to do. That gives you some confidence too, that the dogs are veterans now too.”
Next month will be Casavant’s fourth Quest.
Casavant, 51, placed 10th in 2009 and 2010 before moving up to seventh last year as the top Yukoner. He won the 2012 River Runner 100 race and the 2012 Carbon Hill sled races.
In his bio on the Quest website, Britten says he took up dog sledding because he “had no car.”
Twenty-one years later he’s in his third Quest after placing ninth in 2008 and scratching in 2009. The 47-year-old is running a brand new team from his Outbackriders Mushing kennel.
“That’s awesome too,” said Wilmshurst of having a second Dawsonite in the race. “We need as many Yukon mushers as we can getting out there.”
All three returning champs are Alaskans. Along with Moore are Hugh Neff of Fairbanks and John Schandelmeier of Maclaren River.
Moore and Neff occupied the top-two spots in the last two Quests. Moore defeated Neff by one hour and 16 minutes last year, exacting revenge for losing to Neff by 26 seconds in 2012.
Neff has raced in every Yukon Quest since 2000 with the exception of 2004 and placed third in 2005 and 2010. Moore placed sixth in his first Quest in 2011.
Schandelmeier will be racing his 17th Quest dating back to 1986, winning it in 1992 and 1996.
Other notable entries for this year race are New Zealand’s Curt Perano and Sweden’s Torsten Kohnert, both of whom are Quest rookies.
The 2014 Yukon Quest begins on February 1 in Fairbanks.
“Our first event in town will be on Feb. 9 at Shipyards Park (in Whitehorse) and we’re offering free mushing rides to the public again this year,” said Quest executive director Marie Belanger. “There will be free hot cocoa and cookies, games for the kids and food available.
“We want to say thanks to the community for supporting us all these years.”
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