Yukon North Of Ordinary

Sports archive for January 29, 2014

Further trail changes trim mileage from Quest

For the second year in a row, the Yukon Quest 1,000-Mile International Sled Dog Race won’t actually be 1,000 miles.

By Marcel Vander Wier on January 29, 2014 at 4:19 pm

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Photo by Marcel Vander Wier

CANINE BENCH PRESS – Volunteers Valerie Boudreau of Waterloo, Ont., holds one of musher Jerry Joinson’s dogs while Kristina Lee of Toronto checks its weight at Saturday’s vet check event in Whitehorse.

For the second year in a row, the Yukon Quest 1,000-Mile International Sled Dog Race won’t actually be 1,000 miles.

After removing American Summit from the race route Monday night, race marshal Doug Grilliot took it a step further last night, moving the finish line from downtown Whitehorse to the Takhini Hot Springs.

The decision was based on dangerous trail conditions for dog teams and mushers on the Yukon River.

The two changes will shave approximately 80 miles (129 km) from the race route.

The 3,420-foot (1,026-m) American Summit was also removed from last year’s race, which Allen Moore won in record time.

Grilliot estimated the change in finishing locations will shave an additional 30 miles (48 km) from the overall race route.

The last time the race finished at the hot springs was 2000, when Aliy Zirkle – Allen Moore’s wife – became the first woman to win the Yukon Quest.

Grilliot said the decision to move the finish line to an area 30 km north of Whitehorse wasn’t as hard to make as some may think.

“I guess in a lot of spaces there, there’s just flowing water on the Yukon,” he said. “You don’t want to make those decisions, but when it’s right there in your face ... it’s kind of like the American Summit deal. We can do a lot, but when you just flat-out can’t ... The dogs can go through some pretty tough stuff, but they can’t swim for 30 miles.”

The 1,600-km race which follows the North’s historic gold rush trail begins in Fairbanks Saturday and is expected to finish in the early hours of Monday, Feb. 10.

The start line in Fairbanks was also moved off the Chena River to Second Avenue, due to thinner ice conditions than normal and concerns of having 2,000-plus spectators on the ice.

“We’re going to run down Second Avenue like they used to do,” Grilliot said. “They put snow down on the street for us. We’re just bypassing maybe a mile of river, just down to where it’s nice and solid.”

Meanwhile, the stars of the race are ready to go after receiving their physicals in Whitehorse and Fairbanks Saturday morning.

In Whitehorse, all 32 dogs examined at the annual vet check received the green light to compete. One by one, Normand Casavant and Jerry Joinson’s dogs went under the vet’s microscope at the Northerm Windows and Doors warehouse in Hillcrest.

Every inch of each dog’s body was examined prior to the biggest race of their lives.

“We’re evaluating their body condition. That’s probably the most important thing we’re looking at,” explained Jessica Heath, a vet with Alpine Veterinary Medical Centre.

“Body fat and muscle mass tends to decrease over the race, so their pre-race exam is really important for us to establish a baseline. Then we can see how they’re doing along the race.”

Skin and haircoat are also evaluated to ensure the dogs will not be susceptible to frostbite, Heath said.

“It’s a very, very thorough exam,” she said. “We listen to their heart, we check every joint in their body, every toe. There were no dogs that I was concerned about today, and that was really nice to see.”

Dogs new to the Yukon Quest were fitted with a microchip in between their shoulders.

Eighteen mushers and their dogs are registered to compete in this year’s Yukon Quest – the 31st annual race.

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The Yukon Quest isn’t the only race moving its start location.

The start of the Yukon Arctic Ultra will also take place at the Takhini Hot Springs. The ultra marathon race gets underway tomorrow at 10:30 a.m.

The race was originally supposed to begin from Shipyards Park, but the open water on the Yukon River was deemed too dangerous.

The 2014 edition of the race will see 53 competitors tackle the trail.

Fifteen will take on the marathon distance, 22 will attempt the 100-miler (161-km), and 16 will attempt to complete 300 miles (483 km).

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