Friday, February 4, 2011

Crawling Out of Funk

I've been in a blue funk the past few deals, primarily dealing with work and issues arrising from that large sled dog abuse case down in Whistler.  If I don't crawl out of the funk I'll be missing the fun of the Yukon Quest International Sled Dog Race.  Since the Quest is without question my personal favorite of the long distance races, I'll be damned if I'll let some guy I don't even know in a whole different country ruin it for me.

Last night the mushers in both the Quest and the Yukon Quest 300 drew their bib numbers, which determines the starting order of the race.  So, without further ado, here it is:

1. Griffin, Kelley:
2. Tremblay, Denis:
3. Seavey, Dallas:
4. Phillips, Michelle:
5. Ellis, Mike
6. Rygh, Johannes:
7. Moggia, Didier
8. Neff, Hugh:
9. Roalofs,Christine:
10. Kaduce, Dan:
11. Schnuelle, Sebastian:
12. Rose, Tamara:
13. Gatt, Hans:
14. Durham, Kyla:
15. Marrs, Wade:
16. Cadzow, Joshua:
17. Bailey, Jodi:
18. Anderson, Ken: Gord
19. DeBrui, Hank
20. Dennis, Allen
21. Joinson, Jerry:
22. Sass, Brent:
23. Dalton, David:
24. Moore, Allen:
25. Warnke, Clint:

Here is the starting line-up and bib numbers of racers in the Yukon Quest 300:
1. Frederick Kathleen 51

2. Bergen Dyan 52

3. Pourteau Eric 53

4. Hopkins Ed 54

5. Jakobsen Oyvind 55

6. Honda Yuka 56

7. Willomitzer Gerry 57

8. Rogan Susan 58

9. Schmitz Fabian 59

10. Wilmshurst Brian 60

11. Keevil Genesee 61

12. Olson Ryne 62

13. Routley Megan 63

14. Zirkle Aliy 64

15. Royer Jessie 65

16. Bradley Maren 66

17. McNee Nathan 67

18. Schonberger Tom 68*

19. Bech Mathias 70

20. Lucas Jonathan F. 71

21. Drobny Paige 72

22. Pedersen Misha 73

23. Meili Rolf  74

I have a special interest in several of the teams in both races.  My friend Allen Moore is racing a team for SP Kennels (see link on this Blog) in the full Quest.  It's his first time to run the Quest, but I'm sure he's received a lot of 'inside information' from his wife, the only woman to ever win this race, Aliy Zirkle.  Aliy, and the SP Kennels live-in handler Ryne Olson, are both running the Yukon Quest 300.
Sebastian Schnuelle is widely regarded as one of the best sled dog trainers in the game, and always has an especially close bond with his dogs.  I'll be following him very closely this year too.  Hans Gatt is widely considered a favorite to win - after all, he's won this race several times before.  If he wins this year he'll be the Quest's only 5-time champion.  There are 24 other teams out there trying to thwart that effort.
Hugh Neff is hungry for a win, and the past few years he's been able to field an exceptionally able team of dogs.  Hugh is an interesting musher to watch, as he tends to be his own worse enemy.  If he can stick to the rules and avoid chasing the 'rabbits' in the front of the pack I think he certainly could win this thing.  Whether he is able to do so, well - I guess we'll see over the course of the next week or so.
As I've mentioned before, Dave Dalton is a venerable veteran of the Yukon Quest.  He's started the race 17 times, and finished it 13, placing as high as 3rd place.  This year Dave is running a team of young dogs, lead by four 10-year olds.  He'll be fun to watch, but I really can't pick him as a winner yet.  Watch his team next year, though.  It might surprise all of us. 
A guy we frequently overlook, but shouldn't, is Dan Kaduce.  Dan has run the Quest four times, always placing within the top 10.  He has also run the I'rod, with four top-10 finishes.  Don't be too surprised if you see him running way up front. 
There are some young Quest veterans out there that are clearly worthy of attention.  Josh Cadzow was last year's rookie of the year.  I had the opportunity to hang with Josh at last year's start and he is personable (if a bit shy), VERY good with his dogs, and is learning the racing game very quickly.  He comes from a long line of village sled dog racers, and I believe he will develop into one of the few "great ones".  Ken Anderson is having a good year thus far, and always fields a great team.  Brent Sass has also been training hard, though we haven't seen his team in quite so many of the early season races. 
There are 12 rookies in this year's line-up including Moore.  I'd be hard pressed to choose just 1 or 2 for the "Rookie of the Year" honors.  Knowing his dogs and his kennel, I have to consider Allen Moore my favorite, but he'll have to earn it.  Dallas Seavey deserves a spot on anyone's list of favorites, as he's at least a 3rd generation dog man and though a Quest rookie, he has two top-10 Iditarod finishes in his resume'.  Jodi Bailey is Dan Kaduce's partner and has been training hard all year.  Kyla Durham has been handling for Brent Sass for a couple of years now, and is no stranger to cold, snow and isolation. 
It's a lot harder to pick favorites for the Yukon Quest 300.  Mid-distance races require a whole different type of strategy and training than long-distance runs, and sometimes very well-known mushers use these shorter races as training runs, without putting a lot of effort into the competition aspect.  However, there are some teams I think could do very well.
Gerry Willowmitzer is one example.  Gerry has been running dogs for 14 years, and placed 13th in last year's Iditarod.  Inside information is that he has trained specifically with a goal of winning this race.  Running a team of Hans Gatt dogs, Susie Rogan is using the Quest 300 as a qualifier for the longer races.  Gatt's teams are always exceptional, and if he thinks Susie is ready for the big-time, I doubt anyone can stand in her way.  Even though running a team of young dogs, Aliy Zirkle has proven her ability to win the 1000 mile Quest, so 300 miles should be an easy walk in the park for her team.  Ed Hopkins has done well in the Yukon Quest, so there is no reason why he shouldn't do equally well in the shorter race. 
I'm afraid the Quest 300 is a bit of a crap-shoot when it comes to calling winners.  I think I'll just have to watch as the race progresses.
So, with both races starting tomorrow afternoon, let's let the fun begin.

1 comment:

  1. Well I may be able to help bring you out of this funk.. You will be a "GREAT" Uncle in about 8 months. Beth has just announced that she's with child.