Yukon Quest to host four mid-distant races in 2022 to keep race afloat

Published: Aug. 25, 2021 at 8:12 PM AKDT
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FAIRBANKS, Alaska (KTVF) - In June, the Joint Board of Directors of the Yukon Quest announced that for consecutive years, the historic race would not host the traditional, 1,000-mile international race between Alaska and Canada. The Quest set the wheels in motion for races on each side of the border and recently introduced the ‘Yukon Quest Cup’, headlined by the YQ550.

Yukon Quest will host four races this year, two on each side of the Alaska-Canadian border.
Yukon Quest will host four races this year, two on each side of the Alaska-Canadian border.(Yukon Quest)

The YQ550 will begin in Tok on February 5, with notable passages including Chicken, American Summit, Eagle Summit, Slaven’s Cabin, Circle, central, Mile 101, and Two Rivers before concluding in Fairbanks.

The YQ300 will run its traditional route from Whitehorse to Minto Landing, Yukon on February 19. The YQ200 will begin on February 7 in Circle before wrapping up in Fairbanks, while the YQ100 will also begin in Whitehorse and also on February 19.

“This is a super important move for the Yukon Quest legacy and to keep it alive in a time of struggle for mushing and big races,” Jessie Holmes said after signing up for the YQ550 in Fairbanks Saturday. “It will be two years now with the 1,000-mile race and this is building a great foundation for the 1,000-mile Yukon Quest to come back.”

Many mushers will use the mid-distant Quest races to qualify for the upcoming or future Iditarod races, with the 2022 version set to take off from Anchorage on March 5.

Holmes is a 2016 YQ300 champion, while his girlfriend Annie Dargan, originally from Charleston, South Carolina, just signed up for her first big race.

“It is going to be a huge learning experience, I’d say nervous is one way to describe it,” said Dargan, who got into the sport as a handler on the Herbert Glacier in Juneau. “I just like hanging out in the dog yard with the dogs. It’s like, ‘this is really cool, I like dogs and they pull you and you get to work with them.”

Lauro Eklund, who comes from a mushing family in Tanana, was also in Fairbanks on sign up day. As a previous Quest competitor, Eklund is looking forward to the Tok-to-Fairbanks route.

“It is part of Alaskan history, especially out there on some of those trails, they’re kind of ancient almost,” said Eklund, whose kennel is in Two Rivers. I have never been to that side of Alaska and there is a lot of history even on that Taylor Highway. I am looking forward going through the trails of past mushers and you always feel the history there.”

Other mushers to signed up for the YQ550 in Fairbanks Saturday include J Jay Levy, Chase Tinle, Misha Wiljes and Michelle Phillips, who placed second the last time the full 1,000-mile race was held in 2020.

The most up to date Yukon Quest information can generally be found on their Facebook.

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