Friday, October 9, 2020

Mid-Distance sled dog races open for registration

Several mid-distance races opened registration last weekend for their 2021 races. With all of the uncertainty in 2020, fans wondered if races would see a slow start to the season - but the worry was all for naught. Every race has seen a very healthy return of applications, some are even full. Even with the uncertainty of travel, teams from Canada and the Lower-48 plan to come up to Alaska for the racing season. Alaska wasn't the only state to see races come alive for registrations.

The John Beargrease opened registration for it's different classes (with the 120 being full), with many familiar teams returning for another go at the Lower 48's premiere race. The Pedigree Stage-Stop race also opened registration with several familiar names on the roster. 

The Willow 300, which earlier this fall announced they were unsure they would be able to put on a race due to lack of volunteers, filled out within minutes. The race capped its number at 45. Willow 300 is one of the few races that does not do an interval start. Teams line up for a mass start on Willow Lake, though some choose to hold back and give their teams room to run. It makes for an exciting bit of race action for anyone watching.

The Kuskokwim 300 - which starts and ends in the Western-Alaska town of Bethel - also opened registration and is boasting the largest opening day of registration roster to date with many of the sport's top names. With Covid being a very real possibility for concern leading into 2021, Bethel has already been very pro-active in how they plan to make sure this race is safe for everyone. It's still early in the season, but this race is shaping up to be the one to watch. The Kusko always delivers an exciting race. 

Copper Basin 300 opened up registration, with 24 teams signing up on opening day. The CB300 is known as the coldest mid-distance race and offers many challenges for veteran and rookie teams alike. The 2020 race was nearly called off mid race due to cold, with many teams choosing to scratch at the first two checkpoints because of weather reports. This year there's a good balance of veterans and rookies hoping to take on the course.

The Yukon Quest has had to restructure for the 2021 race due to border and financial concerns. With Covid-19 a persistent issue, the race decided it would not be feasible to try to hold the traditional thousand mile race, and the lack of funds made running two 300 mile races difficult. However the Alaska side of the Quest has decided to hold the Yukon Quest 300 and have renamed it the Summit Quest, recognizing that the Alaska 300 trail goes over several of the famous summits of the Quest trail. 20 teams signed up on the first day. Several popular Quest teams are in the mix, including former Champion Hugh Neff. 

New race "Sweeps" also opened up registration this past week and announced two sign ups. First to register is DeeDee Jonrowe who retired from competitive dog mushing several years ago (do mushers ever really retire?) as well as Iditarod Champion Jeff King. Sweeps has a very expensive entry fee of $4000 to help build a giant purse payout. However, this is a steep price and it is unclear if there will be enough teams to make the race viable (the race states it needs 25 teams to sign up and race at minimum). 

Of course, all (except the Beargrease 120 and Willow 300) are still open for registration - as is registration for the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race. Most races will keep registration open through December, the season is shaping up to be an exciting one. 

Which races are you excited to follow? Who are you rooting for? Who are you hoping to see sign up for some races? Comment below!

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