Veteran musher Michelle Phillips wins Yukon Quest

Musher Michelle Phillips in Dawson City, Yukon, early Wednesday morning after winning the Yukon Quest 450 race. ‘Just a really solid run,’ she said. (Yukon Quest)

‘It was one of those magical runs where, you know, you just went with it,’ Phillips said

Michelle Phillips says “everything clicked” for her on the trail of this year’s Yukon Quest sled dog race.

The veteran Yukon musher was the first to reach Dawson City, Yukon, early Wednesday morning, winning the 724-kilometre (450-mile) race this year.

“It was just a really solid run,” Phillips said.

“It was one of those magical runs where, you know, you just went with it and kept moving and yeah, I felt very blessed to have such a great group of dogs to accomplish that.”

The event started in Whitehorse on Saturday, with six mushers entered in the race to Dawson City. Two shorter Yukon Quest races were also held this year, to Braeburn and Pelly Crossing, Yukon.

As of Wednesday evening, two other mushers in the long race had also reached Dawson — Millie Porsild, who was second in, and Mayla Hill, who came third.

Hopes for return of international race

Phillips has run in the Yukon Quest many times before, including eight times when the race was a 1,600-kilometre  international event, run between Whitehorse and Fairbanks, Alaska. She’s also run in Alaska’s famous Iditarod several times.

The Yukon Quest formally split last year into two separate race events in Yukon and Alaska. The breakup was attributed to a dispute over some of the race rules around dog care.

Phillips hopes the longer international race will be back one day. Pulling into Dawson City on Wednesday was bittersweet, she says, because in the past it marked the halfway point in the 1,600-kilometre race — not the finish line.

“I just really, you know, really feel like I wanna keep going,” she said about getting to Dawson.

“[You want to] just put your dogs in the campground and get busy working on them and ready to tackle the next section — and just sad we can’t.”

Phillips leaving Whitehorse at the start of the Yukon Quest. (Evan Mitsui/CBC)

Phillips also won’t run the Iditarod this year, saying she’s “choosing to step away from that race for a while.”

Last year, Phillips was penalized by Iditarod officials for sheltering her dogs during a fierce storm on the trail, a decision she later stood by.

Now she’s looking forward to pampering her dogs with “lots of treats, lots of praise, lots of cuddles,” after their victorious Yukon Quest run.

She may even pamper herself a bit.

“I’d like to get a massage. That would be really nice.”

-With files from George Maratos

Related stories from around the North: 

Canada: Guy Lafleur in the North – ‘He just wanted to meet his fans’ says former NHL teammate Steve Shutt, Eye on the Arctic

Finland: Ice fishing World Championships latest in Finnish series of odd sports events, Yle News

United States: Veteran musher Brent Sass wins Yukon Quest 300, CBC News

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