Veteran musher Michelle Phillips wins Yukon Quest

Musher Michelle Phillips in Dawson City, Yukon early Wednesday morning after winning the Yukon Quest 450 race.

Musher Michelle Phillips in Dawson City, Yukon early Wednesday morning after winning the Yukon Quest 450 race. “Just a really solid run,” she said. (Yukon Quest – photo credit)

Michelle Phillips says “everything clicked” for her on the tracks of this year’s Yukon Quest sled dog race.

The veteran Yukon musher was the first to reach Dawson City, Yukon early Wednesday morning, winning the 724-kilometer (450-mile) race this year.

“It was just a really solid run,” said Phillips.

“It was one of those magical runs where you just went with it and kept moving and yes I felt very blessed to have such an amazing group of dogs to make that happen.”

Evan Mitsui/CBC

Evan Mitsui/CBC

The event began Saturday in Whitehorse with six mushers competing in the race to Dawson City. Two shorter Yukon Quest races were also held this year, to Braeburn and Pelly Crossing, Yukon.

By Wednesday night, two other mushers from the long race had also joined Dawson – Millie Porsild, who finished second, and Mayla Hill, who finished third.

Hopes for return of international racing

Phillips has run the Yukon Quest many times, including eight times when the race was an international 1,000-mile race held between Whitehorse and Fairbanks, Alaska. She has also run in Alaska’s famous Iditarod several times.

Yukon Quest

Yukon Quest

The Yukon Quest was officially split into two separate racing events in the Yukon and Alaska last year. The split has been attributed to a dispute over some of the racing rules surrounding dog grooming.

Phillips hopes the longer international race will return one day. The run-in at Dawson City on Wednesday was bittersweet, she says, because it has historically marked half of the 1,000-mile race — not the finish line.

“I really, you know, really feel like I want to move on,” she said of joining Dawson.

“[You want to] Just put your dogs on the campsite and get down to work on them and get ready to tackle the next section – and just sad we can’t.

Phillips will also not be competing in the Iditarod this year and says she “decides to retire from this race for a while”.

Last year, Phillips was fined by Iditarod officials for protecting her dogs on the trail during a violent storm, a decision she later stood by.

Now she’s looking forward to treating her dogs to “lots of treats, lots of praise, lots of cuddles” after their winning Yukon Quest run.

Maybe she even spoils herself a bit.

“I would like to get a massage. That would be really nice.”


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