Enterprise, Oregon. 27 January, 2014
The 10th annual Eagle Cap Extreme sled dog race wrapped up Saturday morning in the pre-dawn cold at Ferguson Ridge ski hill. For the second year in a row, it was Laura Daugereau who claimed the 200-mile crown. Daugereau, of Stockett, Montana, battled warm day-time temperatures, difficult terrain, and a tenacious field of mushers to win her second 12-dog, 200-mile title in her three ECX appearances.
ECX rookie Brett Bruggeman of Great Falls, Montana, gave Daugereau all the competition she could handle. A long-time training partner of Daugereau’s, Bruggeman enjoyed a slim lead through the first 170 miles of the race. During the final stop at Ollokot checkpoint, Daugereau chose to drop three of her remaining dogs, leaving the eight strongest still in harness for the final leg. That tactical decision proved fruitful, helping Daugereau pass Bruggeman to reach the finish arch a mere eight minutes before him.
During the final 25-mile leg, both mushers got off their sleds and ran up one hill after another to assist their teams, holding onto the handlebars for support. The lead changed several times, with neither musher conceding the race. “I couldn’t lose him,” an exhausted Daugereau said at the finish. “I was riding the sled, bent over the handle bars to catch my breath. Every time I looked back he was still right there.”
Third place finisher Josi Thyr of Cataldo, Idaho also made a late push. In the final leg, Thyr steadily gained on the two leaders, ultimately finishing one hour behind them. Following Thyr in the standings were Jason Campeau of Okotoks, Alberta, Canada and Garret Warren of Council, Idaho. Rick Katucki scratched from the 200-mile event midway through the race.
The 100-mile eight-dog race boasted one of the most competitive fields in Eagle Cap Extreme history, including champions of three previous ECX 100-mile races. The first musher back to the finish arch was the 2013 runner up, Roy Etnire of Seeley Lake, Montana. Etnire was followed by two-time champion Bino Fowler of Sunriver, Oregon; defending champion Steve Riggs of Oleney, Montana; Chris Miller of Gardnerville, Nevada; Laurie Warren of Council, Idaho; Christopher Wall of Linden, Alberta, Canada; and Melissa Turner of Herald, California. Alyssa Martin, Hugo Antonucci, and April Cox scratched from the 100-mile event.
The third running of the two-stage, 62-mile “pot race” was also highly competitive. During Thursday’s first 31-mile leg, Trevor Warren’s team was literally on the heals of Jennifer Campeau, providing a thrilling one-two finish. Friday’s 31-mile leg saw Campeau’s lead expand, but not by much. She finished first overall (times from the two stages are combined), followed by Warren and Jane Devlin of Bend, Oregon. This was Campeau’s first sled dog race.
Saturday evening’s Awards Banquet at the Joseph Community Center was the culminating event for the 2014 race. At the banquet mushers, race fans, sponsors, and volunteers were treated to a catered meal, live entertainment, an auction, musher awards, and some entertaining stories from the trail.
Perhaps the most prestigious award in mushing, that of Best Cared For Team, was presented at the banquet as well. The Double Arrow Veterinary Clinic Best Cared For Team Award in the 200-mile race went to Josi Thyr for the second straight year. Laura Daugereau received Honorable Mention. The Enterprise Animal Hospital Best Cared For Team Award in the 100-mile race went to Chris Miller. Jane Devlin was awarded Honorable Mention in the 62-mile race.
A combination of highly skilled mushers and fast trail conditions lead to course records in all three of the race classes. After her record-setting finish, Daugereau lay down on the tailgate of her kennel trailer, barely able to move. “I’ve been mushing for nearly 20 years,” she said. “That last twenty-five miles was the toughest leg I’ve ever raced.”
This year’s Eagle Cap Extreme was put on with the financial support of over 100 businesses and individuals, and with the help of over 150 volunteers.