Twenty-two years after Tagish, Yukon's Ed Hopkins made his debut in the Yukon Quest, he's accomplished a personal best finish — not to mention bragging rights around the dinner table.
Hopkins completed the 1,600 kilometre sled dog race Tuesday evening at 10:02 Alaska Standard Time, finishing in third place behind Alaska's Brent Sass and Allen Moore.
That's one position higher than the best-ever finish of his wife, Michelle Phillips, who placed fourth in 2008. Phillips was on hand at the finish line to greet her husband, and her fourth place finish was the last top-five finish for racers from the territory.
Ed Hopkins first Canadian and 3rd musher to cross the finish line! http://t.co/Ayt7apPF8n— @theyukonquest
"So I had to beat her!" Hopkins said in a media release following his finish.
Despite the ribbing, Phillips, who also won this year's Yukon Quest 300 Mile — a shorter companion to the 1,600 kilometre race — was excited for her husband.
"I'm overjoyed," she said. "I'm super excited Ed had a great run. His team's looked great whenever I've seen them."
The third-place finish was admittedly surprising for the 50 year old Hopkins, who said he thought just finishing in the top ten would be difficult at the outset.
However, a strong race for Hopkins and his team, combined with a difficult year on the trail — nine mushers were scratched and one withdrew during the race — tipped the scales in his favour.
"I'm a hurtin' unit now!" Says Ed when he compares this race to his dirt one 22 years ago. #YQ2015— @theyukonquest
Race rookie Tedford finishes fourth
Three and a half hours after Hopkins, Vancouver's Damon Tedford made his way into Fairbanks, finishing in fourth place as the race's top rookie.
Tedford, who is originally from Summerside, PEI, and moved to Alaska in the fall and entered his first sled dog race just weeks before the Quest began, said things got more nerve racking as the race went along.
"It was a lot more fun at the start when I was just having a good time, and didn't have to think about anybody chasing you," he said at the finish line.
"I was definitely the weakest link on the team going over Rosebud Summit," Damon says, praising the work of his dogs.— @theyukonquest
Hopkins will take home just over $13,000 US for his third place finish, while Tedford will pocket approximately $11,300 US.
Apart from Hopkins and Tedford, four more Canadians are taking part in this year's Quest. Normand Casavant, from Whitehorse, finished the race in sixth place Wednesday morning at 7:25 Alaska Standard Time.
Casavant's team is the sixth to have completed the gruelling 1,600 kilometre Quest so far this year. Ten teams are still on the trail, including three Canadians: the Yukon's Brian Wilmhurst and Rob Cooke, and Alberta's Jason Campeau.