Allen Moore rides along the Yukon River during the 2017 Yukon Quest. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)

VIDEO: Mushers gear up for grueling Yukon Quest sled dog race

The international race kicks off Feb. 2, lasting several days as teams make their way to Fairbanks

Dozens of mushers from across North America will be setting out on a 1,000-mile trek with their four-legged teams as they strive to become the 2019 champion of the Yukon Quest International Sled Dog Race.

The race kicks off Feb. 2 in Whitehorse, Yukon, featuring the iconic 1,000-mile race (1,600 kilometres) as well as the 300-mile (482 kilometres).

Thirty mushers, including reigning champion Allen Moore and past winners Matt Hall and Brent Sass, will be mushing alongside eight to 14 dogs as they compete for $21,500. Of the 30, 15 are veterans – mushers who have completed the race in past years – and seven are rookies.

A further 13 are set to compete in the 300-mile race.

Moore won the Yukon Quest on Feb. 13, 2018, crossing the finish line at Shipyards Park at 7:59 a.m. The competitors endured -40 C and heavy snowfall. Some racers took as long as two weeks to arrive at the finish line in Fairbanks, Alaska.

Meanwhile, those in the 300-mile race will wrap up in Braeburn, Yukon.

The race, which began in April 1983, has been deemed one of the most difficult sled dog races in the world because of the harsh conditions, difficult route and minimal support allowed for competitors.

Here’s a look at the mushers representing the Yukon:

Hans Gatt

There are only two people on the planet who can say they’ve won the Yukon Quest 1,000-mile race four times.

One of them, Hans Gatt, is returning to the Quest this year after “semi-retirement.”

By his own admission, Gatt isn’t out to make a statement with his return.

“Obviously, I used to race to win for the last 30 years, but this is a little different,” said Gatt. “I mean, I haven’t raced it for like eight years and I don’t have that drive anymore. I don’t have to prove anything.”

This go around, he said he’s hoping to see what his team can accomplish. Read more >

Rob Cooke

For veteran musher Rob Cooke, this year’s Yukon Quest will be special.

“It’s a bittersweet race for me,” said Cooke during an interview at his Mount Lorne home.

“My five main dogs – Maddie, Skits, Loonie, Nutter and Psycho – they’ve been racing with me since 2011 and they’ve done pretty much every race with me since 2011. … This is going to be their final race.”

The only time Cooke didn’t have that core group of Siberian huskies was in 2016, when Maddie had a litter of puppies.

“That makes me really sad – that I’m never going to be racing with them again after this. But it is also really exciting that I’m going to have this one final race with them and share the Quest trail with them one final time. I’m really looking forward to that.” Read more >

Nathaniel Hamlyn

Nathaniel Hamlyn was one of six rookies to finish last year’s Quest.

He was the red lantern winner after finishing last in the race, 13th, in a year that half the field, another 13 mushers, didn’t make it to the end.

Hamlyn is up front about last year’s run. After being forced to drop four dogs from his team in the first 160 km, he ran most of the race with just eight on the line.

“My rookie year was basically, literally, survival,” said Hamlyn during an interview at his home and kennel near Mount Lorne. “I wasn’t really interested in racing, I was just wanting to finish.” Read more >

Michelle Phillips

Yukoner Michelle Phillips is putting the final touches on preparations for her seventh Yukon Quest – her first in nearly a decade.

That’s not to say she hasn’t been racing, just not in the Quest.

“I ran the Yukon Quest six times and then I started running the Iditarod,” said Phillips. “I decided that I wanted to revisit the Quest – do something different – and my partner, Ed (Hopkins) has been running the Yukon Quest. He is a rookie and he wanted to run the Iditarod, so we decided to switch it up.”

Together, Phillips and Hopkins run Tagish Lake Kennel, home to more than 60 dogs, and – among other things – tend to finish well in the Yukon Quest. Read more >

To see full coverage of the race as the teams make their way to Whitehorse, follow Black Press Media’s Yukon News.


@ashwadhwani
ashley.wadhwani@bpdigital.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

PHOTOS: Alberta male team takes silver in Winter Games relay speed skating

Alberta was close behind Quebec in the team relay speed skating finals

County of Paintearth bringing in new payment method for ratepayers

County will soon able to accept major credit-cards

Alberta was crowned champions in Wheelchair Basketball at Canada Winter Games

Ontario won silver while Quebec took home the bronze medal

Castor’s Covenant Health an employer of choice in Alberta

Covenant Health staff help keep Alberta’s communities strong by creating fulfilling workplaces

National Energy Board approves Trans Mountain pipeline again

Next step includes cabinet voting on the controversial expansion

WATCH: Pet therapy brings calmness to Winter Games athletes

Canada Winter Games in Red Deer continue on until March 2nd

R. Kelly charged with 10 counts of sexual abuse

R&B star has been accused of sexual misconduct involving women and underage girls for years

Child advocacy centre raising funds through Dream Home Lottery

The child advocacy centre in Red Deer uses its resources to help kids all over Central Alberta

Trudeau tells Canadians to listen to clerk in SNC-Lavalin matter

Privy Council clerk Michael Wernick delivered a blunt assessment at the House of Commons justice

Mueller report looming, new attorney general in hot seat

Robert Mueller is required to produce a confidential report to pursue or decline prosecutions

B.C. woman shares story of abuse with church officials ahead of Vatican summit

Leona Huggins was the only Canadian in the gathering ahead of a historic summit at the Vatican

Sylvan Lake’s Megan Cressey misses Freestyle Skiing Big Air podium

Alberta’s Jake Sandstorm captured silver in the men Freestyle Skiing Big Air contest

Why do zebras have stripes? Perhaps to dazzle away flies

Researchers from University of Bristol look into why zebras have stripes

Most Read