Lori Tweddell, pictured here during a race in 2017, and her sister Louve Tweddell will not compete in the 2020 Yukon Quest 1,000. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)

Yukon Quest field down to just 15 after three withdrawals

Lori Tweddell and Louve Tweddell withdrew from the Quest after not completing qualification races

The field for the 2020 Yukon Quest 1,000 mile International Sled Dog Race is down to just 15 mushers — the smallest field at the starting line in the race’s 37-year history — after a trio of mushers withdrew from the race prior to Jan. 18.

Yukoners Lori Tweddell and Louve Tweddell, and American Matthew Failor will not take part in the 2020 race.

In order to compete in the 1,000-mile (1,600-kilometre) race, mushers must complete two races recognized by the Yukon Quest — one 300-mile (480-km) race and one 200-mile (320-km) race.

Lori and Louve both completed the 2019 Yukon Quest 300, which counted only as a 200-mile race due to a shortened trail, and were counting on finishing the 2020 Copper Basin 300 earlier this month to satisfy the final requirement.

After the two mushers scratched from the Copper Basin 300, running the Yukon Quest 1,000 this year was no longer possible and because the deadline for registration changes, Jan. 3, had already passed, neither was running the Yukon Quest 300.

Shayna Hammer, executive director of the Yukon Quest Association in Canada, said that after having denied late entry to other mushers, the organization felt it could not make an exception to allow Lori and Louve to run the 300.

“The tricky thing with this is it’s very clearly stated — it’s rule two — (that) there is a pretty firm deadline of Jan. 3 for any changes to registration,” said Hammer. “We had other mushers who had tried to submit entries after that deadline for the Yukon Quest 300 as well and we had to say no to them, so we couldn’t very likely say yes to anybody else who tried to switch after that date.”

Neither Lori nor Louve responded to requests for comment from the News.

In order to sign up for the Yukon Quest 1,000, mushers need to outline how and where they will complete their qualifiers, but do not need to have already completed them.

The Iditarod, however, takes a different approach. Any races to be used as qualifiers for that race must be completed prior to Aug. 31, a full six months before the race starts.

“I think it’s always good to give yourself a lot of time,” said Hammer. “It’s also very challenging to run your qualifier just a couple weeks before the actual 1,000-mile race.”

Races currently recognized as 300-mile qualifiers are the Canadian Challenge, the Copper Basin 300, the Femundlopet 600K, the Finnmarkslopet 500K, the Finnmarkslopet 1000K, the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race, the Kobuk 440, the KuskoKwim 300, the Willow 300, the Yukon Quest 300 and the Idaho Sled Dog Challenge.

Of the 300-mile qualifying races, three are in Norway, five are in Alaska, one is in Saskatchewan, one is in Idaho and the Yukon Quest 300 is either in the Yukon or Alaska.

Races that are currently recognized as 200-mile qualifiers are the Caledonia Classic, the Can-Am Crown International, the Eagle Cap 200, the Femundlopet 400K, the Hudson Bay Quest, the Knik 200, the Percy De Wolfe Memorial Mail Race, the Tustumena 200, the Two Rivers 200 and the Tobacco Trail 325K.

And as for the Jan. 3 deadline, Hammer said it is based on race logistics.

“It is prior to our food drop, but there are other logistics that need to be handled,” said Hammer, mentioning customs information and straw orders specifically.

Social media posts from the Yukon Quest on Jan. 18 state that the organization will present the issue of late race switches to the rules committee the next time the rules are under review.

This year’s Yukon Quest 1,000 field features two Yukoners, Michelle Phillips and Rob Cooke, and three rookies.

Twenty-one mushers are in the field for the Yukon Quest 300, including Yukoners Nathaniel Hamlyn and Claudia Wickert, as well as American Madeline Rubida running a team of dogs from Tagish Lake Kennel.

The 2020 Yukon Quest starts on Feb. 1 in Fairbanks, Alaska.

Contact John Hopkins-Hill at john.hopkinshill@yukon-news.com

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