Whitehorse Daily Star

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RARING TO GO – A dog on Amelie Janin’s team jumps with excitement at the start of the 100-mile Granger Grind race Saturday at the Lorne Mountain Community Centre.

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Rob Cooke and his Huskies take off from the start. Photos by YANNICK KLEIN, YUKAN PRODUCTIONS

Snowfall makes for challenging Granger Grind

The Dog Powered Sport Association of the Yukon (DPSAY) has been struggling with warm weather and lack of snow around their races this season,

By Dustin Cook on March 2, 2018

The Dog Powered Sport Association of the Yukon (DPSAY) has been struggling with warm weather and lack of snow around their races this season, but that problem flipped to the other side for the longest distance race of the season, The Granger Grind.

The 100-mile race trail starting from the Lorne Mountain Community Centre saw an ample amount of snow fall just before the race start on Saturday making for challenging trail conditions on the mountains.

First-year race director Lisa Kozakewich said they had a trail crew working hard as the snow was falling and also had three snowmachines go out ahead of the mushers but the windy conditions on the mountains covered them right back up again.

“For the first half conditions were OK for the most part with lots of snow. It’s just a challenging trail by nature,” she said.

“On the way back we heard there was lots of snow on the trail making it pretty interesting, is what some of the teams were saying.”

The out-and-back race saw the eight mushers and their dog teams go over McConnell Lake, up the Alligator Lake trail to Fish Lake and then to the Sky High Wilderness Ranch checkpoint via Bonneville Lakes.

At the ranch, teams had a mandatory five-hour layover before following a similar route on the return trek.

Finishing just two minutes back of first place in the 2017 race, Martine LeLevier was back for a chance at taking top spot but ended up meeting the same fate in a tight race to the finish.

She again came in second, this time with a 10 minute separation, and Crispin Studer won the race.

Studer raced out to a six minute lead in the first half of the race and expanded it in the second leg with the quickest leg time of four hours and 38 minutes.

Studer won the race in a time of nine hours and 18 minutes finishing at 4:02 a.m. Sunday after starting the race just after 1:30 p.m. Saturday.

It was a two-person race for the most part with the third-place finisher Alex Rochat 53 minutes behind LeLevier.

The race also saw some familiar faces from the Yukon Quest, including local mushers Nathaniel Hamlyn and Rob Cooke, who is gearing up to run the Iditarod which starts Saturday in Nome, Alaska.

The two 1,000-mile Quest finishers stayed toward the back of the pack throughout the race and finished in the bottom two positions.

Hamlyn, in his second straight Granger Grind, placed seventh with Cooke rounding out the group in eighth.

Kozakewich said this is the second year the DPSAY mid-distance race has followed this particular course – one that is different and more challenging than most of the mushers have faced in the past.

“It’s more challenging than anything we’ve done in the past,” she said. “It goes over mountain passes so it’s very hilly and a little more technical than some of the other trails so it’s interesting and for a lot of the mushers it’s a new challenge.”

With most of DPSAY’s other races ranging from 10 to 30 miles, Kozakewich said this mid-distance race is a way to attract those longer distance mushers as well as provide their members with the opportunity to race a longer trail in the area.

“It’s part of DPSAY’s mission statement to provide mid-distance races for local mushers for training or a stepping stone or whatever else they might have in store or goals for the future,” she said.

With the weather somewhat co-operating for the group, even if it does make for more difficult conditions, Kozakewich said they are preparing for their final Twister Race of the season in mid-March starting at the Takhini Hot Springs.

She said depending on weather conditions over the next couple of weeks, this will likely be the last race of the season for the group, but they could hold another one in April if snow allows.

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