The finishes were so close at the fourth Yukon Brewing Twister Race, held at the old dogmushing track on the north Alaska Highway Sunday, that one tangle in the lines could have made the difference between winning and losing.
Organized by the Dog Powered Sports Association of the Yukon and sponsored by Muktuk Adventures, the race had the smallest spread between first and last finishing teams of any Twister race this season. A little more than 20 minutes separated first from last in the field of 10 sleds. Less than four minutes separated the fastest and slowest of the five skijorers.
In fact, only 31 seconds separated the top two mushers in the 9.1-mile race.
That 31 seconds gave Tagish’s Dave Johnson his fourth-consecutive win in the series to remain undefeated this season. With less on-coming traffic on the trail, Johnson had a smoother run than the previous Twister race at Hans Gatt’s place.
“There weren’t as many head-on passes as there were on the trail at Hans Gatt’s place – there were 20 head-on passes there,” said Johnson.
Taking second in the sled category was Megan Grabowski. She moved up five spots from last month’s Twister. In third was Crispin Studer, winner of the River Runner 100
for the past two years.
Johnson plans to compete in the Canadian Dog Mushing Open March 9 and 10 in Fort Nelson, B.C. in all three categories – six-dog, 10-dog and open.
“It’s the 50th anniversary so there could be 80 or 100 teams there,” said Johnson. “It’s going to be a big event with teams from everywhere.”
After finishing second in December’s Twister race, Darryl Sheepway got his first win of the season in the skijor category.
Jonathan Lucas was less than a minute off his second win of the season, placing second. Claudia Wickert, who hasn’t missed a race all season and finished second in the previous race, came in third.
“It just worked out for me this time,” said Sheepway. “I guess I had less tangles and problems this time than the people behind me.
“It was a hard-packed, fast trail but it was also pretty narrow.”
Taking first in the kid’s category was Seth Carey, completing the four-mile course in 16:20.
The Twister event was the first race held in the location in more than a decade. It used to be the race track for the Yukon Dog Mushers Association, an organization that has since dissolved.
The Dog Powered Sports Association of the Yukon, formed in 2009, hopes to use the course more often. The track was popular from the late 1970s into the early 1990s.
“We decided we wanted to bring competitive dog mushing back to those trails because they’re still there,” said Sheepway, a DPSAY board member and race organizer. “They’re excellent trails and they still aren’t being used by anyone else.
“The idea is we want to continue having races there.”
“I raced there years ago – a small race,” said Johnson.
“It must have been 15 years ago.”
There are two more Twister Races this season, but DPSAY has turned its attention to this weekend’s River Runner 100. It begins after the Rendezvous mushing races in Shipyards Park on Saturday.
In the 130-mile sled category is Hans Gatt, a four-time Yukon Quest champion, and Normand Casavant, winner of the Carbon Hill Sled Dog Race’s 30-mile event for the past two years.
Sheepway is entered in the 65-mile skijor event, along with Gaetan Pierrard, the 2010 River Runner champion.
1st Dave Johnson – 32:43
2nd Megan Grabowski – 33:14
3rd Crispin Studer – 36:05
4th Deb Knight – 38:52
5th Fabian Schmitz – 45:53
6th Erin Stevens – 46:38
7th Maria Hernetkoski – 48:38
8th Melissa Schenke – 50:09
9th Christina Reeves – 51:50
10th Gerry Willowmitzer – 52:57
1st Darryl Sheepway – 36:35
2nd Jonathan Lucas – 37:24
3rd Claudia Wickert – 38:20
4th Stefan Wackerhagen – 38:33
5th Barb Anderson – 40:09
1st Seth Carey – 16:20
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