We left the motel around 6:30AM and the temperature was 2 degrees. As we headed towards the race parking lot the weather changed dramatically from 2 degrees to -9 below and then back up to 24 degrees in just 20 minutes. When we got to the parking lot it had started to snow and the wind was kicking up something fierce. Not what we expected today and not at all like last year. The trail was hard and looked as if it would be super fast.
Bruce was 6th out of the chute with Joe Gans in front of him and Debbie Moderow behind him. The team consisted of Cheyenne, leading in her first race along with Anker a seasoned veteran. Pepper and Slim in point both strong veterans. Umea and Epson behind point, both young dogs new to Stage Stop. Billy and Vail behind them. Big Bill is a seasoned veteran and work horse and Vail is new to Stage Stop. In wheel we had the brother/sister team of Utah and Sedona both veterans. The team was amped and Cheyenne was leaping and banging as hard as Anker; what a sight to watch.
This stage is very strategic and it’s fun to see how many dogs everyone leaves with. There are at least a couple theories out there. One theory is to run 12 dogs and lay one down, but possibly shorting yourself dogs later. Theory two, run your dogs a little conservatively and go with fewer with the intent of having 12 healthy dogs at a later stage. Theory one is good if you know you will have 12 dogs later or you can build a big enough lead to compensate in case you don’t. Theory two can back fire if someone is able to seriously lay down a nice run and gain a big enough lead. We did not anticipate anyone would gain a big enough lead on this trail or mileage and so we chose to run conservative.
Here’s what I know: Lina (10), Buddy (12), Aaron (12), Sam (9), Joe (?), Bruce (10), Jerry (10), Debbie (10), Stacey (11), Kate (12), JR (10), Krista (12), John (11), Dennis (12), Mike (10), Barrie (10), Chris (?)
The teams took off in a strong head wind with blowing snow and low visibility for the first 14 miles. The trail was not hard, but rather drifted and anywhere from 2 – 8″ of drifted snow. After they got over the top of the mountain the sun came out and the trail had a couple inches of loose snow. They drove this for about another 13-14 miles making a loop and then back over the mountain into the storm. The trail conditions were much different than last year and tough. Bruce felt his dogs were stronger than last year, but he held them back a little too much the first 14 miles on the down hills. We are pleased though with the run overall and the 6th place finish. We did not give up too much to the leaders and everyone is still in this game. Remember, there’s 6 more days of racing to go. Buddy, Lina and Aaron had smoking fast runs on this trail and Sam was very impressive with just 9 dogs; cudos to them for some very nice runs!
The team looked great after the run and everyone is healthy. When we dropped them after we got to the hotel they were bouncing around and ready to roll! Tomorrow, we will race in Pinedale. Stay tuned.