Sunshine and warmth created slippery conditions for what could be the Dog Powered Sports Association of the Yukon’s final Twister race of the season on Sunday.
Though the warm, bright day was perfect for onlookers, it left the course along the Takhini River icy and fast for the dogs. “It’s spring conditions, so the trail was really icy, and real packed,” said race coordinator Virginia Sarrazin. “You can’t hook the sled, and for skijorers you can’t really brake, so it’s more challenging. But it’s fun because it’s nice out, you know. The light is great.”
Twelve-mile race winner Marine Gastard was forced to stop to attend to a dog with an injured paw. “I had to stop to put booties on him,” she explained.
With a majority of the race held on the frozen Takhini River, a number of sleds and skijorers found the tight right-hand turn leading onto the river one of the more challenging spots. Shooting out of the trees and down the bank with speed, drivers held on as they fishtailed around the corner.
Some lost their balance and tumbled across the hard packed snow. Those who successfully navigated the turn would let out shouts of exhilaration and encouragements to their dogs.
The ice was not the only thing working against the dogs. The temperature rose above 3C, causing some mushers to give their team a rest partway to cool off and roll around in the snow.
With the rising temperatures and melting snow, race organizers are unsure as to whether the next and final Twister race will take place as scheduled. “Honestly, given the trail conditions,” Sarrazin said. “We got some new snow but it all melted.” Billed as the Watson River Grand Finale, the race will take place on the Easter weekend, barring any cancellation.
Gastard won the 12 miles in a time of 54:16, clearing second place Jonathan Lucas by over three minutes. Third place went to Jacob Heigers, timing in at 1:01:31. Katherine Sheepway was the winner in the 12-mile skijor class, finishing in 52:56. In second with a time of 57:57 was Darryl Sheepway, followed closely by Sarrazin at 58:18.
This was Gastard’s first win at a Twister race despite a number of strong finishes over the course of the season. “It was fast - really fun. Just a bit too warm for the dogs, but my dogs are used to running in the warmth,” said Gastard. Though she describes her strength to be longer races, Gastard was pleased with her result, and felt her team was glad to get out and run the short sprint race. “It was fun for the dogs to do shorter races instead of going, like, 100 miles,” she said. “I’m really happy and I think my dogs are really happy too.” Gastard is planning on racing the Percy DeWolfe Memorial Mail Race, which starts on Thursday in Dawson City.
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