Once again Mother Nature smiled down on Laconia, New Hampshire for the World Championship Sled Dog Derby. Once again Mother Nature smiled down on Laconia, New Hampshire for the World Championship Sled Dog Derby. The renowned Lyman Construction crew was able to create a fantastic trail. Just four days prior to the release of the first team down the start chute, the trails received a much-needed freshening of snow and word was spread that the “Race was on!” Personally, on the previous Sunday night to the race, I was making alternative plans to head to Quebec for a race, as I didn’t see Laconia taking place. Thankfully I was spared the travel and my continual seasonal goal of competing at Laconia was realized. Teams did not waste the opportunity to compete for a $20,000 purse. In total, 37 teams traveled to Laconia to race. Unfortunately, the very same weather that saved the race prevented several teams from the Midwest from attending the race. The farthest traveled team was Rob Peebles of Alberta, CA. Rob did very well in the highly competitive field, but unfortunately, several of his dogs fell ill and he didn’t continue racing on Sunday. Governor John and Dr. Susan Lynch attended the race to observe Opening Ceremonies. Governor Lynch has proven to be a friend to mushers. The previous fall he signed into legislation an amended law that made mushers an official trail user in the State of New Hampshire. Teams were arranged by Sharon Welsh (LRSDC Secretary) for Governor and Dr. Lynch to ride over a short section of the course. Their smiles coming into the finish line told the story, “This is fun.”The weather over the weekend was fairly consistent with high temperatures just below 30 degrees and lows in the 20’s. However, the low for Saturday was in the single digits, which would allow the trail to set up and offer an even firmer surface to run on. Snow on Saturday night freshened trail conditions. The Lyman Crew once again went to work in the early hours of Sunday to move snow around the trail, putting it where it was needed and plowing it off where it wasn’t. Blowing snow showers on Sunday afternoon improved the trail surface rather than slowing things, as would normally be expected.This event is exceptional for spectators. Friday was lightly attended as always, but Saturday and Sunday provided excellent weather for viewing the race. The course is set up so spectators can drive up to portions of the trail and view teams running the course. Most folks will park along the roads and take a short walk to a trail side perch and cheer teams from there. Because the trail is so accessible, spectators can come and go from the start/finish line to vantage points. This allows them the opportunity to mingle in the dog yard with mushers and then go out to the trail for viewing. This race is put on annually by an extremely dedicated group of volunteers. Behind the scenes all year long people are lining up sponsorships, securing trails and coordinating activities with the town of Laconia. Heading these volunteers is Jim Lyman, President of Lakes Region Sled Dog Club. On race weekend, the officials take over and run this race along with Jim and the crew. Mushing legend Harris Dunlap has Chief Judge responsibilities, the Lyman Construction Crew provides the trail, Cindy Barker (my ever supportive wife) is the Chief Timer and Tony Roux provides announcing and color commentary. The Open teams put on a fantastic competition. Claude Bellerive of Charette, QC, 2007 Open Champion, and Real Turmel of St. Augustine, QC, 2007 runner-up, did not disappoint. By the end of the weekend last year and after 44 miles of racing, the two were separated by only 10 seconds. This year revealed that Claude would again beat Real by an even more stunning margin of only 8 seconds over a course of 45 total miles. Herve Belanger of Berry, QC placed 3rd and Steve Long of Cabot, VT finished 4th. Former champion and local favorite Keith Bryar of Moultonborough, NH did not fare so well, citing that some of his dogs were getting old and some were very young to be truly competitive.In the 6-dog class, Melanie Bellerive of Charette, QC again bested the field as she did last year. Local New Hampshire musher Eddie Clifford followed in 2nd and even managed to eclipse Melanie’s day time on Sunday. Third and fourth place were rounded out by Quebec mushers Herve Belanger and Cathy Rivest.The weekend was capped with a Sunday afternoon award ceremony and dinner. The Laconia World Championship Sled Dog Derby will be held February 13th-15th, 2009.Greg and Cindy Barker live in Bow, NH where they keep a small kennel to provide maximum attention to their dogs. Greg began this journey into mushing as a skijorer and has since fallen victim to the sled. Greg pays for this life by working as a Geologist and computer geek.


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