LABRADOR – The Northern Peninsula and the Labrador Straits fielded three teams in Cain’s Quest 2020 beginning March 2.
And at the end of five days of snowmobile racing all across the Big Land of Labrador, all three were among the 17 teams out of 41 in total who made it across the finish line.
The Northern Pen spoke to the three teams – two from the Labrador Straits and one from the Northern Peninsula – about their experiences, highlights and challenges.
Labrador South Racing (Team 62)
For both members of Team 62, Labrador South Racing, the highlight of the race was their big homecoming in L’Anse-au-Clair.
One of the 12-hour layovers was scheduled for the Labrador Straits town, which is near the hometowns of Team 62 teammates Joe Hancock and Blair Roberts.
Hancock, 64, is from Forteau while Roberts, 28, is from L’Anse-au-Loup. Both towns are within a 20-minute drive of L’Anse-au-Clair.
Hundreds of people, including friends and family, came out to welcome both them and Team 50 M&M Racing (of L’Anse-au-Loup) and to show their support.
Neither Roberts nor Hancock realized there were so many people cheering them on.
“It was certainly emotional that so many people were behind you,” said Hancock.
He called the support “unbelievable.”
“I didn’t expect to see so many people,” said Roberts. “It was worth the whole journey just to make it to L’Anse-au-Clair.
Roberts, a rookie, says the race wasn’t as difficult as he expected. He had been on a support crew in 2016 and was well aware how grueling it could be.
He had seen the race times and heard the “horror stories” of what people have had to go through, but he didn’t experience any of that.
“I was expecting a lot more punishment, on man and machine, but it was a really easy race,” he said.
Hancock, too, says it was an easier ride this year. He says the weather was warmer and better and they also benefitted from the Nalcor transmission line, which they were allowed to follow.
“To me, it takes away from the real challenge of the race,” he said.
And Hancock knows just how hard the race can be from his previous experiences.
The four-time veteran of Cain’s Quest was relieved to have been able to finish it after he suffered an accident, striking a rock in the last race in 2016.
This time around, he and Roberts were fortunate not to suffer any mechanical issues.
Hancock suggested they may be the only team that can say that.
For Hancock, this will probably be his final Cain’s Quest, citing his age.
"I think we'll let the young guys take over and we'll certainly be behind them 120 per cent," he said.
Meanwhile, the rookie Roberts is looking forward to taking it on again. He wants to experience the challenge of doing Cain’s Quest at its most difficult.
“It wasn’t a big enough challenge this year,” he said. “All year preparing your body, mentally and physically, and it was basically six days of good riding.”
Roberts says he’s used to doing long trips on snowmobile and can go for 10-12 hours a day sometimes.
And this was no more difficult than that.
He says the biggest challenge of it all was probably the “blind” driving in certain spots. When there are overcast weather conditions, it can be difficult to make out the terrain in front of you.
Roberts says it was especially an issue going from Mary’s Harbour to L’Anse-au-Clair and leaving L’Anse-au-Clair the following morning. Conditions were smooth but they had to slow down.
Regarding a teammate for 2020, he says there have been some talks but he doesn’t have anyone lined up quite yet.
Hancock believes Roberts would do well in 2020.
“He’s good at navigation, and he’s a good guy to give it another shot,” said Hancock.
Hancock and Roberts thanked family, friends, their support team, all the volunteers and everyone who contributed to their success. Roberts also thanked his girlfriend for her help and support, saying there was “no end to it.”
The team finished 11th in the race.