LACONIA — Quebec mushers continued their recent domination of the World Championship Sled Dog Derby by taking the top three spots in the 86th annual open race held over the weekend.
Rejean Therrien of LaPierre, Quebec, racing in only his second Laconia derby, emerged as the winner, edging out Guy Girard of St. Thomas de Joliette, Quebec, by 29 seconds, Therrien led by 24 seconds after Friday's first heat, increased his lead to 57 seconds on Saturday and withstood a strong finish by Girard on Sunday to post an overall time of 2:31.29 to Girard's 2:31.58.
Another Quebec musher, Jack Trottier of St. Gabrielle de Rauli, who was last year's runner-up, finished in third lace with a time of 2:33.13. Trottier posted the best time on Sunday with a 54:12 performance.
Taking the fourth and fifth spots were Vermont mushers Jim Blair of Eden with a time of 2:34.25 followed by Doug Butler of Bristol who finished with a time of 2:37.23.
Sixth place finisher was Claude Bellerive of Charette, Quebec, last year's winner, with a time of 2:37.31.
New Hampshire mushers Keith Bryar Jr. of Moultonborough and Chris Carter of Penacook placed 12th and 13th.
Carter's wife, Angie, won in the six-dog class with a three-day total time of 58:13, followed by Melanie Bellerive with a 58:45 performance and defending champion Jocelyn Bradbury at 58:48.
Therrien, who has been racing sled dogs for 38 years, said that Sunday's heat was the most difficult. ''It was hard. There was a lot of snow and wind. My team, worked hard.''
He started with 16 dogs on Friday, dropped it to 14 on Saturday and 11 on Sunday. His team of Alaskan Husky and German Pointer crosses was led by twin four-year old sisters Junier and Laska.
Therrien brought 23 dogs from his kennel to the race and his six-dog team team driven by his daughter took seventh place in that race.
A carpenter, Therrien has finished in the top three in every race that he has run this season, including a 40-mile race held in Charette, P.Q.
''It's a lot of hard work to get the dogs on condition for these races. But we give them lots of love and they respond,'' he said.
Runner-up Girard, who placed third in both the 2011 and 2013 races, said he was very pleased with his team's performance and said that he'll be back next year to try and win it all.
He started with 13 dogs on Friday, dropped to 11 on Saturday and 10 on Sunday. He said that 70 percent of his racing team is female, because they are easier to train and work harder, and that his lead dogs are both 6-year-old females, Guru and Kelley.
A retired oil refinery worker, Girard has been a musher for over 30 years who keeps in shape in the off season by running in 26.2 mile marathons. ''I was in Boston last year and raced in the Montreal marathon in September,'' says Girard.
Trottier, 36, is a fisheries biologist for the Canadian government whose specialty is endangered species. Has been racing sled dogs since 2008 and says that he marvels at how competitive the teams are with eight of them finishing on Friday with times of less than 50 minutes on the 15-mile course.
He said that in posting the best time on Sunday he had to make one stop in which he switched over his dogs and that may have been the difference between a higher finish as he was only a minute and 15 seconds out of second place and a minute and 44 seconds out of first place.
''That's all part of the game,'' he said, adding that mushers not only compete but cooperate to help each other out.'
''We do it for fun and there's a lot of respect for the other mushers,'' says Trottier.
The mushers were especially appreciative of the hard work of Jim Lyman and the members of the Laconia Sled Dog Club's trail grooming team, which kept the trails in good condition despite Sunday's high wind and drifting conditions.
Quebec mushers Jack Trottier, third place; Rejean Therrien, winner, and Guy Girard, second place, got together to congratulate each other before the start of the awards ceremony for the World Championship Sled Dog Derby, held Sunday afternoon at the Laconia Country Cub. (Roger Amsden/for The Laconia Daily Sun)
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