| Copper Basin 300
, There're off!
Posted: 16-Jan-2007, 10:33 AM
Group: Celtic Nation
Realm: Two Rivers, Alaska
From the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner:
Moore nabs second CB 300 title
By Craig Medred
Anchorage Daily News
Published January 16, 2007
Blizzard conditions in the Nelchina Basin were taking a heavy toll on teams entered in the Copper Basin 300 Sled Dog Race on Monday, but Allen Moore from Two Rivers slogged his way to his second victory in three years behind a team of 11 determined huskies.
Moore, the 2005 winner of this race, passed through the last checkpoint in Tolsona with a lead of more than an hour and a half on Canadian challenger Sebastian Schnuelle from Whitehorse, Yukon.
Moore eventually reached the finish line at 9:16 p.m.
The trail conditions were so tough that it took Moore 4 hours and 20 minutes to cover the last 20 miles of the course from Tolsona to the finish line in Glennallen.
Moore completed the race in 37 hours and 40 minutes for an average speed on the trail of 7.7 miles per hour, but he slowed significantly due to heavy snow late in the race.
On the 25 miles of trail between the Wolverine Lodge at Lake Louise and the Tolsona Lake Resort, his speed dropped to under 6, barely a jog, however, the trail might have been to blame for that.
“It is snowing really hard,'’ a race official reported from the Glennallen start-finish line. “It is ugly.'’
Bad weather helped to explain the high dropout rate for the 300-mile loop through the foothills on the south slope of the Alaska Range. Of the 26 teams that left Glennallen on Saturday, 13 had scratched by late Monday.
As of 11 p.m. Monday, no other mushers had crossed the finish line.
One-time race leader Zack Steer pulled out at Wolverine Lodge on Lake Louise after one of his dogs went down and died. Veterinarians were still trying to determine what happened.
Steer and kennel partner Dr. Robert Bundtzen of Anchorage have been deeply involved in an on-going study of possible links between exercise, stress and gastrointestinal problems in racing sled dogs, but it is not yet known how this dog’s death relates to any of those things.
But because dogs belonging to the two mushers are part of the study, Steer said some of the best veterinarians in the country were on the scene to examine the dog after it died and begin piecing together why that happened. The information could prove useful in helping save other dogs in the future, but that didn’t make Steer feel all that much better.
“I’d rather not have done the race at all than lose a dog,'’ he said. “I’ve never had this happen before.'’
Steer said he had noticed on the run between the Meier’s Lake and Sourdough checkpoints that the dog just didn’t seem to be working quite as hard as normal. He asked a vet to look at the dog in Sourdough. Musher and vet then talked about the situation and decided it was fine for the dog to continue.
“There was no indication along the run (to Wolverine) that anything was wrong,'’ Steer said. Then, the dog dropped, and by the time Steer got the team stopped and ran forward, it was already dead.
Steer went on into the Wolverine checkpoint and scratched.
“I was considering scratching anyway,'’ he added. “The trail was really slow. There were a lot of sections that were sort of bottomless. It was a very difficult challenge.'’
Tough trail had front-runners, veterans and rookies all abandoning in about equal numbers. Former champ William Kleedehn from Carcross, Yukon, and early front-runner Gerry Willomitzer from Whitehorse both joined Steer in scratching. So did six other veterans and four of the eight rookies who entered the race needing to complete it to qualify for the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race or the Yukon Quest International Sled Dog Race — the big, long distance races later in the year.
Some of them might have seen their Iditarod or Quest dreams die in the severe winter weather along this trail.
Sometimes it was snowing so hard, Steer said, “that there were places where you couldn’t even see the trail.'’
Where the route followed the Trans-Alaska pipeline from near Summit Lake to Paxson, Steer said, there were old markers to follow near the right-of-way for the oil line, but no sign of the trail packed in by snowmobiles less than 24 hours before.
Farther south at Sourdough, where the trail veers away from near the Richardson Highway and heads out across the wilderness toward Lake Louise, there were reports of more than a foot of new snow, said Brad Parsons at Wolverine Lodge on the lake.
“It’s just been constant snow for just the last three days,'’ he said Monday night. “Further north they got like 18 inches of snow. It’s punchy and warm.'’
Were that not enough, he added, the winds were beginning to pick up Monday night as the trailing mushers in the depleted Copper River field battled their way back toward Glennallen.
Moore, the 49-year-old husband of Aliy Zirkle — the first woman to win the Quest — seems to thrive in these conditions.
The last time he won the CB300 conditions were so bad 21 mushers either withdrew before the start or quit the race. Four-time Iditarod champ Martin Buser was among the latter. He scratched for the first time in two decades of racing.
There was deep snow in 2005 too, and worse. Four snowmachiners got soaked after their sleds went through thin ice hidden beneath the snow on Paxson Lake before the race even began. At least there was no open water this year, and for Moore there was destined to be a bright side to the suffering.
The $4,120 winner’s take of the $15,000 Copper Basin purse was growing each time another team dropped out. The way it stood Monday night, Moore was looking at a probable payday of more than $5,000.
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