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Home arrow News arrow Local News arrow Change made in 200-mile race

Change made in 200-mile race

The Eagle Cap Extreme Sled Dog Race is a highly recognized race in the West, offering the only Iditarod and Yukon Quest qualifier in the region. A balance of consistency and change has helped keep this race at the forefront of the best-run races, organizers said.

This year, there will be a big change to the 200-mile route, said Troy Navé, Eagle Cap Extreme public relations volunteer. “Due to musher feedback received over the years, we changed the two out-and-back from Ollokot to Twin Lakes. The mushers said when a dog goes over the same spot more than once, they start to mellow out and think the race is almost over.”

Navé said the new route is at a lower elevation. If the conditions fall apart, the back-up plan is to use the same route. This week’s forecast calls for highs of 40s and lows in the 20s for the Wallowa Valley. 

“Mud is almost impossible,” Navé said. “They can run over gravel, but the sled runners take a beating.”

Over the years, repeat racers like Rick Katucki, Bino Fowler and Steve Riggs have made the Eagle Cap Extreme a stop on their winter circuit of races. One advantage is the qualifying distance, Navé said.

“Each musher needs to complete qualifying races before the Iditarod or Yukon Quest,” he said. “Two of those need to be 300 or more, and one can be 200 or more. That’s where we fit in.”

Some changes to the race administration are under way with longtime race judge Donna Miller stepping in as a race marshal and Gary Miller taking her job as a judge, Navé said.

Every year, the organizers and volunteers strive for two things: dog health and racer safety. But Navé said the emphasis goes to the dogs. One of the volunteers is a “drop dog transporter.” If a dog is struggling, hurt or sick, it is run back to a road on a snowmobile and then taken back to race central, where one of the mushers’ handlers is to take care of it. If a musher gets hurt on the trail, Nave’ said he or she must rely on a vet for medical attention.

“We have a phenomenal vet staff,” Navé said. “Jim Leach is our head vet from Big Lake, Alaska, which is a huge mushing community. He was a vet on the Iditarod last year, and this is his first year at Eagle Cap Extreme.”

Navé said most mushers use Alaskan Huskies — dogs bred with specific attributes. They work well as a team, can handle cold weather and are big eaters. The dogs consume as many as 10,000 calories a day. Navé said each musher has a different formula, but they all want to load up the dogs on fat. Most moisten the food so the dogs can access the nutrition more quickly, and some mix dog food with meat.

Spectators can watch the start at the base of Ferguson Ridge at 1 p.m. Thursday and then head to Salt Creek Summit to watch the teams run by between 2 p.m. and 4 p.m. Finishes for each of the 31-mile legs of the pot race can be watched at Ferguson Ridge Thursday and Friday afternoon; the 100-mile finishers are expected back on Friday, and 200-mile finishers will come in on Saturday.

Opportunities to meet the mushers are during the Wednesday night potluck and the Saturday night banquet. Visit www.eaglecapextreme.com for a complete list of events and musher times.

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