Stage 4 – Besting the Best, by Jake Robinson

—Besting The Best—
I’m sure I wasn’t the only race fan compulsively checking the Pedigree Stage Stop Race page for updates to see how the latest lap would unfold. Coste added another small margin to his overall lead and is now sitting 5 minutes and 1 second ahead of 5 time champion Anny Malo. With 4 of 7 stages complete, this is officially Coste’s race to lose.
Coste seemed to take an approach of running up on Malo’s heels early and applying the pressure with his 10-dog team and following her around the rest of the 34 mile track. This is the first time, presumably, that Coste ran some dogs in his pool two days in a row and it appeared to take a toll as he carried dogs in the bag during the run. It wasn’t enough of a hindrance for Malo to capitalize on, although she appeared to battle back some precious time towards the end of the lap. Coste is putting on a master class in cut throat racing and putting the ball in Malo’s court. Anny is a true master of this event, having proven herself and kennel to be the best stage racing program many times over and is putting together a race that would mean total domination any other year.
What happens when the best gets bested and what does it mean for the rest of the season and rest of the sport? Is Coste truly proving that his method of mushing is leaps and bounds ahead of mushers in North America? Or is he draining gas out of a tank faster than it can be refilled? The last true earth shaker was Egil Ellis, and even he didn’t win his first major championship race in the USA. No matter what happens in the final 3 stages, Coste has proven that his dog team is something special. If Anny and Marco have any cards left to play, it’s time to lay them on the table. If Coste is able to sustain this pace and method of racing for 3 more days, it means that we have all been wrong about a lot of things for a long time.
Outside of the race for the win, it was an incredibly exciting day on the trail for quite a few teams! Laura Bontrager put together a smoking run that catapulted her into both a daily and overall third place, although Cathy Rivest is hot on her heels in the race for the final place on the podium. Jess Moore took a smaller string and was slightly off of the pace for today, but is likely coiling up to strike in Kemmerer, a trail that is familiar for her team. Despite faltering early in the race, Rachel Courtney had a run that I’m sure she is quite happy with but will have her work cut out to advance in the standings. Sarah Tarlton is coming on strong and continuing to build in momentum and will be looking to make some moves in the final 3 stages. Charlie Conner was a late addition to the race, making the last minute decision to come out and try something new. He’s showing that he has what it takes to learn, adapt, change (and RUN up those hills) and is having a noteworthy run. Go Charlie!
Tomorrow will be the final stage before the rest day and will be held in Kemmerer, WY. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Malo take a slightly smaller string that consists of the cream of the crop of an already elite group of dogs, a team that she can drive and push. A dog race is essentially seeing who has the strongest weak link. The best dogs on nearly any team are pretty darn good, but a team can only run as fast as it’s slowest moving member.
I also would not be surprised to see Coste enjoy his comfortable position and run an 8-dog team to allow for more rest and a strong finish after the rest day. Time will tell, and while Coste has a size-able lead at the moment, we saw in the first 2 stages that big gains (and losses) can happen quickly.
Enjoying the coverage/arm chair analysis? Spread the word! Encourage your non-mushing friends and family to follow the Pedigree Stage Stop Race and see what happens in this epic duel for the championship!