Heading into the final leg of the Pedigree Stage Stop Race that ended Saturday at Lower Slide Lake, Anny Malo knew the only way she was going to lose was if she made a mistake.
Nearing the mid-point turnaround, conditions were perfect for that mistake to happen. Strong winds and spitting snow had mushers nearly unable to see their dogs just in front of them. Mushers had to hit the brakes, slow way down and wait for the worst to pass.
Eventually it did pass, and Malo still led, her dog team driving home for their sixth stage victory of the seven-stage race.
The musher from Quebec, Canada, took the final stage in 2 hours, 29 minutes and 17 seconds, bringing her cumulative time to 15 hours, 55 minutes and 11 seconds for a second straight Stage Stop championship.
“I was really focused on the trail and to make sure I didn’t go out of the trail,” Malo said. “I think that would have been the only thing that maybe could have been a mistake for me.”
Lina Streeper, a musher from British Columbia, Canada, with two Stage Stop titles to her name, placed second in the final stage and second overall in 16:08:34.
The Stage Stop runs a staggered start, with mushers beginning the race in three minute intervals. Since Malo won Friday’s stage in Driggs, Idaho, she started last on Saturday with a full field in front of her to catch over the 32-mile run.
Streeper took the only stage Malo didn’t win, scoring victory in Big Piney on Tuesday. But by the time the two had their dogs in front of the sled on Saturday, Malo’s cumulative lead was 10 minutes.
“When I got to the turnaround, she was 2 minutes up on me, and I needed to make 10 minutes today,” Streeper said. “I turn around and she was right there, so I knew she got me.”
For her victory, Malo earned $10,000. Streeper earned $8,300 for her second-place finish. Both mushers will have much larger purses from the Stage Stop, though, with daily payouts and further overall purses awarded through the musher support program that dog drivers have the option to enter.
After the two Canadians, Bondurant’s Alix Crittenden finished third overall after seven stages of consistent racing. She was fourth overall in Saturday’s final stage, finishing in 2:33:36. Maria Torgerson, a teammate of Streeper’s with Streeper Kennels, was third Saturday and finished fourth overall.
Read more about the race in Wednesday’s Jackson Hole News&Guide.