Yukon North Of Ordinary

Sports archive for February 25, 2014

Kleedehn overcomes spill, penalty to win River Runner

Carcross musher William Kleedehn won the River Runner 120 in a unique way early Sunday morning when his team of 10 huskies crossed the finish line at the Takhini Hot Springs without him.

By Marcel Vander Wier on February 25, 2014 at 2:34 pm

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Photo by Whitehorse Star

William Kleedehn

Carcross musher William Kleedehn won the River Runner 120 in a unique way early Sunday morning when his team of 10 huskies crossed the finish line at the Takhini Hot Springs without him.

The 54-year-old fell off his sled when negotiating a hairpin turn a few kilometres out from the finish line. When his dogs took off without him, Kleedehn found himself walking the home stretch and eventually crossed the finish line by himself.

“I walked the two miles roughly,” Kleedehn told the Star this morning. “They didn’t know what to do with that situation, but there’s no rule against walking behind your team across the finish line.”

Race marshal Hans Oettli was able to track down Kleedehn’s dogs and bring them to safety.

Kleedehn, who shares a kennel with last year’s race champion Crispin Studer, crossed the finish line about 20 minutes after his dogs, and was given an official finishing time of 7:20 a.m.

His winning time includes a 30-minute penalty for losing control of his sled dog team.

Gerry Willomitzer finished second at 7:42 a.m., while Magnus Kaltenborn, who was running Studer’s B-team, finished third at 8:46.

By placing first and third, Kleedehn and Studer’s kennel took home approximately $1,600 in race winnings.

Studer was unable to defend his race title, as he is currently on a work trip to South America.

Kleedehn, who has an artificial left leg, said the oversized beaver mittens he was wearing to combat the extremely cold temperatures rendered him unable to grip his sled handle with his usual strength.

“On the trail in some areas it was 42 below,” he explained. “With the higher speeds we do, I was using my big beaver mittens. Whenever you use those big mittens, you don’t have quite as good a grip on your handlebars.

“I went around this hairpin turn and kind of couldn’t make it. I kind of fell with the sled, but with those mittens, the sled slipped out of my hands. I usually can manage to have controlled crashes, but at that point the handlebar actually got out of my hands and the team ran without me on across the finish line.”

The trail was very hard-packed and fast, he added, causing a variety of crashes among mushers.

Kleedehn is a former Yukon Quest musher who twice finished the 1,600-km journey in second place, in 2003 and 2005.

After taking some time away from the sport, he began mushing again last year as a handler with Studer’s kennel.

The River Runner 120 is an annual race that coincides with the Yukon Sourdough Rendezvous.

Kleedehn, wearing bib 4, was the first musher to enter Braeburn Saturday night for the six-hour layover.

The race also includes a skijor category, but it was cut short at the Braeburn checkpoint due to temperatures around -38 Celsius.

Adam Robinson entered Braeburn ahead of Cynthia Corriveau by more than 30 minutes.

Kleedehn said this year’s difficult training conditions heightened the importance of the River Runner.

“It was a real important tune-up race for us for the Percy DeWolfe,” he said.

Studer is also the defending champion of the Dawson City-based race, which will take place this year on March 27.

For full results, visit http://dpsay.wordpress.com.

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