‘It will be a tremendous race’: Quest starts Saturday
The race order has been set.
The race order has been set.
Yukon mushers will lead the way and bring up the tail end Saturday as the 30th Yukon Quest begins in Whitehorse.
Mushers will begin leaving the start chute from Shipyards Park as of 11 a.m.
Dawson City musher Brian Wilmshurst drew the No. 1 bib at last night’s Start and Draw Banquet at the Yukon Convention Centre and will be the first of 26 mushers hitting the trail. His bib is sponsored by Arctic Tulip Bookkeeping.
“I was No. 11 last year, so I was hoping for that,” the 31-year-old told the Star. “I don’t plan on being first at the end, so I’m guessing some people will be passing me right off the bat. But I think it’s good. I’m proud to be Canadian, and I’m glad that it’s the 30th year and that we’re leaving from Whitehorse. So I’ll lead the way for a bit, at least.”
Leading the way is viewed as an honour to some mushers, but as a nerve-racking moment for others.
“I’m a bit of a shy guy, and I know when I first started mushing, my starts were gong shows,” said Wilmshurst. “I’ve been dragged out of the start chute, and had loose dogs running down. So I really worked on that and it’s been better the last few races, but still, I’m always nervous.”
The race will be book-ended by another Yukoner – Crispin Studer. With the last pick, he drew 26, sponsored by the Fabulous Facebook Fans.
“The funny thing is this bib is sponsored by Facebook, and I’m not even on Facebook,” Studer chuckled.
The 32-year-old from Carcross said he won’t be feeling any added pressure starting in last.
“I would have rather chosen first, because my dogs are a bit on the faster side, so they’re probably going to have to pass a lot of teams,” he said. “That’s not necessarily good. I would rather have my dogs run a bit slower, but that’s just the way they are.”
Defending champion Hugh Neff will start fourth, Lance Mackey sixth, and Allen Moore 11th.
Of the other Yukon mushers, Normand Casavant drew No. 7, Susan Rogan No. 10, and Ed Hopkins No. 25.
Upwards of 500 hundred people attended the banquet, which began at 5 p.m. and ran until 10 p.m.
The capacity crowd enjoyed local entertainment including the Can Can line, dinner and a silent auction prior to the main event of the night – the bib draw.
Race marshal Doug Grilliot, who conducted the draw, said he is looking forward to an excellent race.
“I think it will be a tremendous race,” he said. “We’ve got a handful that could win this thing. You look at it, and it’s like half the field could win the race. It could be a very competitive race. We’ll see how it shakes out.”
Grilliot said there are a couple of portions on the trail that have been tagged as areas of concern – one just past Dawson City near Fortymile River, and just past Eagle, Alaska on the Yukon River. Mushers were given complete trail reports yesterday.
“Overall, things are looking really good,” said Grilliot. “I think it’ll be a little slow, rough going at points along the trail, but hey, it’s the Yukon Quest and it’s 1,000 miles. If that’s our only complaints, then I think we’re doing really, really well.”
Grilliot said temperatures along the trail are expected to hover around -17 C to -20.
“It’s supposed to stay relatively cool and not get super-cold,” said Grilliot. “But we can’t control the weather. I’m just really, really happy with all the preparation that has taken place.”