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Jackson Hole, WY News

Malo leads Stage Stop with Streeper closing in

Lander, Driggs and Teton County stages remain in race for title.

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The Pedigree Stage Stop Race continues second day in Alpine

The first stage of the 2020 Pedigree Stage Stop Race wrapped up Saturday from the Greys River Trailhead in Alpine, with defending champion Anny Malo, of Quebec, on track to repeat.

She took the stage in Alpine, just ahead of Lina Streeper, the British Columbia musher whose Streeper Kennels have nine championships under their banner, two with Streeper as the musher.

But neither dog driver was particularly high or low after the first stage. With six stages remaining in the 25th annual race, both were keenly aware of just how much time was left to claim victory or fall short.

For Malo it was a nice touch of reassurance for her in just her second year taking on the Stage Stop. A year ago she jostled in the top five for each stage, taking the championship after Streeper missed the trail in Driggs, Idaho, and dropped too far back to be competitive in the stage’s final go back in Teton County, Wyoming.

“We didn’t really know what speed to go last year; it was really fast but we hung in there,” Malo said Saturday. “This year I think the dogs are a little bit faster, but we’ll see what happens.”

The Pedigree Stage Stop Race continues second day in Alpine

Alix Crittenden, from Bondurant, cuddles one of her sled dogs before hooking her up to the sled Saturday morning in Alpine. This is Crittenden’s fifth time competing in the Pedigree Stage Stop Race.

What happened at Sunday’s stage in Pinedale and Monday’s in Kemmerer was two more smooth victories for the leader. And just behind her each day was Streeper, though by the time they reached Tuesday’s Big Piney/Marbleton stop, Malo had built a seven-minute lead.

“Anny seems to just be flawless,” race commentator Jerry Bath said Monday.

Perhaps she remained flawless in Big Piney. But Streeper was better. Streeper took her first stage victory over Malo this year, winning the race in 2 hours, 20 minutes and 49 seconds. Malo was second in 2:22.50, with Bondurant’s Alix Crittenden third in 2:27:40, which put her in third in the cumulative standings as well.

The overall race remains Malo’s to lose, but with the fifth stage next in Lander, there’s a precedent for Streeper to be making a strong move. A year ago Streeper did not win a stage until they reached the Big Piney/Marbleton stage, where she found victory in 2:19:09. In Lander she won in 1:40:42, a minute ahead of Malo.

“My gut, and this is speculation, is that Lina was making a concerted effort to try to close the gap,” race Director Dan Carter said Tuesday, “and it looked to me like Anny was business as usual.”

These two stages might be the most opportune moment for Streeper to strike. Bath said Big Piney/Marbleton and Lander are two of the hilliest runs the teams will take on this week. And that melds well with the dog team guiding Streeper.

“They lope up them big hills,” she said of her dogs Saturday. “I usually have more of an advantage on the steep hills.”

Still, she has a good chunk of time to make up with stages running out. After Lander, Thursday will serve as a travel day before the second to last stage in Driggs on Friday. Saturday morning could be a photo finish, Carter said, when the dog teams drive their sleds home for the final time near Lower Slide Lake.

Malo holds nearly five minutes over Streeper, with a cumulative time of 8:34:25. Streeper sits at 8:39:04, with Crittenden third in 9:00:25.

From her trailer on Saturday, Streeper said she wished to put last year’s missed turn in Driggs behind her. She’s aware of that mistake, and her only hope is to never let that happen again.

And if it doesn’t, Malo and Streeper very well could see a photo finish Saturday.

“It’s something that I did. I screwed up, but I got back to the trail and I made the right turn,” she said. “The next day we won the stage. You can’t let stuff like that bring you down. It’s definitely something I learned from, something that’s in there, but you can’t let that take over.”

Meanwhile, races within the race are beginning to emerge. Crittenden has established herself as a contender, though Rachel Courtney, of Manitoba is within striking distance, five minutes back in fourth. Jeff Conn, of Alaska, and Bruce Magnusson, of Michigan, got pulled off the trail in Kemmerer, losing between 20 and 30 minutes by the time they got their sleds back on track. They made up ground Tuesday, with Conn now fifth and Magnusson sixth in the cumulative standings.

Contact Chance Q. Cook at 732-7065, sports@jhnewsandguide.com.

Sports Editor Chance Cook has lived in rural Pennsylvania, upstate New York and Butte, Montana. He is no stranger to spending time in the woods chasing animals. If you see him out, challenge him to a game of pool. Send tips and questions.

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