T-200 will have to wait for 2004

Trail conditions deemed unsafe

Posted: Wednesday, January 29, 2003

The 2003 Tustumena 200 Sled Dog Race has been canceled, due to poor trail conditions.

The decision to cancel the race was made Monday night at a meeting of the T-200 race committee.

According to race president Nancy Kitchen, a lack of snow this year has led to trail conditions that are simply not fit for racing.

"The final determination came because we have such poor trail conditions that even our local mushers will not train on them," Kitchen said Tuesday.

The race already had been postponed from Jan. 25 until this Saturday because of a lack of snow, and race organizers decided Monday that conditions remain too poor to hold a race.

Kitchen said conditions in the Caribou Hills near Kasilof are "horrible," with open water and loose debris making the trail impassable.

"There's no way of doing it," she said.

The decision comes as a big disappointment for race organizers, mushers and fans of the 200-mile race through the hills.

This year's 20th annual race had been shaping up to be one of the most star-studded in race history, with several big name mushers -- including Jeff King, Martin Buser, Jon Little, Paul Gebhardt and 2001 champion Ramey Smyth -- signing up for the event.

In all, 28 mushers were signed up for the race, with an additional nine mushers signed up for the "Little T," a 100-mile race run in conjunction with the T-200.

Gebhardt -- who trains in Kasilof -- said Tuesday the decision was not an easy one to make, but trail conditions forced organizers to make it.

"They asked me what I thought Sunday night. I said, 'I wouldn't run my dogs,'" Gebhardt said.

He said the main problem lies in the lower elevations of the trail, where warmer temperatures have created lots of ice. Gebhardt said conditions in the higher elevations are OK for mushing, but that does little to help the race, which begins and ends near sea level.

"Way up on top it's not so bad. But the first 25 miles are pretty much glare ice," he said. "It's just too dangerous."

One person not happy about the cancellation is Madison, Wisc., musher Ann Capistrant. Capistrant planned to run the race along with her husband, Todd.

"We were both going to run the Tustumena," Capistrant said. "We were really disappointed."

She said she and her husband will now focus on trying to get some training in before Todd makes a run at the Iditarod.

"We're planning on going to the high country, keep (the dogs) in shape," she said.

As for the T-200, Capistrant said she still hasn't given up on the peninsula's largest sled dog race.

"We'll have to come up next year," she said.

Hoping to make the best of a gloomy situation, race organizers still plan on celebrating all the hard work that went into planning this year's race. In spite of the race cancellation, a race volunteer appreciation banquet is still planned for Saturday night at the Tustumena Lodge in Kasilof.

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