Quesnel mushers dominate the Canadian Challenge Sled Dog Race

Tyler Clarke
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This year’s Canadian Challenge Sled Dog Race ended up a family affair for a father and son from Quesnel, B.C., who clinched a respective first and second place in the 12-dog race.


Placing first was father Warren Palfrey -- an Iditarod and Yukon Quest veteran, who crossed the finish line at Elk Ridge Resort at 5:23 a.m. on Friday, after travelling 520 kilometres, during which he retained all 12 dogs.

“He’s here, now, and feeling good and happy about the race,” event president Gill Gracie said by cell phone, at Elk Ridge Resort on Friday afternoon.

Crossing the finish line at 1:43 p.m. was Warren’s son Sam, who had to drop five dogs along the way, finishing with seven.

Okotoks, Alta., musher Jason Campeau placed third, followed by Rick Wannamaker (Didsbury, Alta.) and Gerry Walker (Pierceland).

As of late Friday evening, La Ronge musher Sid Robinson had yet to reach Elk Ridge Resort. Gracie said that she expected to see Robinson -- a 15-time Canadian Challenge Sled Dog Race participant -- cross the finish line at around midnight.

Logan Lake, B.C., musher Megan Routley scratched and Christopher Lake musher Bart de Marie withdrew, having been forced to pull too many dogs from his team.

In yesterday’s report, the Daily Herald noted that only one eight-dog race participant, Porcupine Plain’s Isabelle Knudsen, remained on the track.

By 7:04 p.m. on Thursday, she withdrew.

“She wanted to make the finish line, but her dogs were too tired,” Gracie explained. “It was cold – it was 30-odd below last night. It’s hard to keep your spirits up … They’d had enough.”

However, Knudsen didn’t go down without a fight.

At 5:56 p.m. on Wednesday, she pulled into the Harold’s Cabin check stop -- the second to last stop before reaching the La Ronge finish line.

Although she was only required to take a five-hour break prior to completing the 320-kilometre eight-dog race, she remained at Harold’s Cabin for 14 hours and 49 minutes before proceeding to Fafard’s Cabin -- the last stop before the finish line.

But, it wasn’t meant to be, with her team quitting, again, prior to the finish line.

“She did well, for a first time,” Gracie said, noting that Knudsen is more experienced with sprint runs than long-distance efforts. “You can’t say that she didn’t make it -- she made it that far, and that’s pretty good … She got very close.”

Looking back on this year’s race, Gracie said that this was a year to remember -- particularly since they got to start the race in downtown Prince Albert, where they were able to attract a much larger crowd than they could north of the river.

“We worked with the city to make sure there was enough ice to be safe,” she said.

“This year we actually spent some time packing it and strengthening it to make sure we could go across.”

The 2014 Canadian Challenge Sled Dog Race will cap off with a musher’s breakfast at the Prince Albert Inn on Saturday morning. Daily Herald reporter Jodi Schellenberg will be in attendance, where she will gather stories from mushers for Monday’s print edition. 

Organizations: Elk Ridge Resort, Daily Herald, Prince Albert Inn

Geographic location: La Ronge, Iditarod, Okotoks Didsbury Logan Lake Christopher Lake Porcupine Plain Prince Albert

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