‘Iʼm really happy to be the first Yukoner’
Normand Casavant likened his Yukon Quest journey to living the good life.
FAIRBANKS – Normand Casavant likened his Yukon Quest journey to living the good life.
The 50-year-old Whitehorse musher was the first Yukoner to complete the 1,600-kilometre journey this year, crossing the finish line in Fairbanks at 2:11 p.m. Tuesday.
Casavant finished in 10 days, two hours and 56 minutes, entering Fairbanks with 10 dogs on his line.
“I didnʼt realize it,” he said of the top Yukon honours. “Wow. Itʼs fantastic. Iʼm really happy to be the first Yukoner. My God … I donʼt know what to say more than that.”
Casavant told reporters his recurring thought while travelling through the remote Yukon and Alaska was “Longue vie au Quest.”
“It means long life to the Quest,” he explained. “Iʼm going to come back for sure. I love it.”
Casavant almost didnʼt finish this race.
Shortly after leaving Pelly Crossing last week, Casavant spotted an injury to a dog and decided to turn around and file his scratch form.
On the trail back into the checkpoint, he bumped into former Quest musher Didier Moggia, who convinced him to continue on to Dawson City.
“I learned about me,” the Quebec-born Casavant said of that moment.
“Sometimes we lost our own little control. We lost our emotion …. And it can change all your life. I think that the best thing to do – but I know itʼs hard – is to try to control your emotion all the time. You win at that.”
The camaraderie shared among the mushers in the 2013 Quest was fantastic, Casavant said.
He and 21-year-old rookie Markus Ingebretsen tackled the 1,123-metre Eagle Summit together on Monday.
Casavant said the two teams slogged their way up the mountainside through deep snow, before his team refused to continue at the three-quarter mark.
“My team didnʼt want to keep going, so Markus went and tried to go in front with his team, but they didnʼt want to go (either),” said Casavant.
“They didnʼt really appreciate it, so we had to work together, and me and Markus did a great job. It was really, really cool.”
Together, the two mushers pulled the two teams up over the legendary summit.
Casavant said he was pleased with his teamʼs performance, especially as most of his dogs are three-year-olds experiencing the Quest for the first time.
“Iʼm really, really, really happy,” he said. “Thatʼs my future.”
Casavant previously ran the Quest in 2009 and 2010, placing 10th in both races.
This year, Casavant pockets $5,950 US for his seventh-place finish.
Alaskan mushers Abbie West and Dan Kaduce finished eighth and ninth, respectively.
Kaduce passed Susie Rogan on the final leg of the race, after the Whitehorse musher took a wrong turn on the trail approximately 29 kilometres outside of the Fairbanks checkpoint. (See separate story, p. 4.)
Allen Moore won the race Monday morning, while Hugh Neff finished second.
The Quest began Feb. 2 in Whitehorse.