The smiles on the faces of the first three teams to cross the finish line on Tanya Lake in Labrador City were brighter than the sun that was shining on Wednesday.
Team Maine/ Southern shore riders arrived at 10:52, in what was a faster than anticipated race.
Organizers had predicted the racers would return on Friday.
Throngs of supporters and well-wishers surrounded Andrew Milley of Labrador West and team mate Robert Gardner of Maine USA.
“This was a fast race, we had good snow conditions and good weather, at times it could have been faster, but there were times when visibility was low,” Milley explained.
Milley’s father, Pastor David Milley rushed to congratulate his son, who had just dedicated the race to him, saying his father was his inspiration to peruse his dreams.
This is the second win a row for team Maine / southern shore riders. It is the third victory for Robert Gardner of Maine. This year’s victory is perhaps even a little more memorable, as he crossed the finish line on his birthday.
A fact not missed by the crowd, as they offered up a rousing rendition of Happy Birthday.
When asked what one of the more difficult parts of the ride was, Andrew Milley told the Aurora, “The section of the ride between Churchill Falls and Chibogamo Lake, it was hard, and rough, and we had to be careful.”
First place team winners take home a prize of $50,000.
Despite the physical toll, the winners were at the finish line to welcome second place Innu Hawks of Natuashish, Team 00.
So were a number of supporters who proudly displayed a banner, supporting the team.
Len Rich and Aaron Poker crossed the finish line at noon.
“We had a good run, and we gave team Maine a good challenge,” Poker said to one of the many supporters who stopped to congratulate them.
One woman could be heard saying to them, “you have made the Innu nation proud.”
Both Rich and Poker listed a good meal and a good sleep as their top priority right now. They also thanked the people of Labrador saying they had so much support from Labrador it was an incentive to try harder towards victory. That second place victory by the way comes with a $30,000 prize.
Forty six minutes later, Southern Snow Racing/ Team Maine Racing, Team 88 cruised into third position.
Team members Dixon Clements of Labrador City and Scott Biddle of Ontario for a while held onto second place.
It appears a mechanical issue resulted in some lost time, the team did make up some good times along the rest of the route, and still managed to take third.
Biddle thanked their support team and their supporters and said they are a big part of their performance.
Clements, surrounded by family and friends said “We had a good race and the Innu Hawks were solid competition.”
He also joked that he had a sore neck turning around to see if Team 99, the Malleck boys of Natuashish were closing in. Malleck boys placed fourth arriving 54 minutes later.
“It was a fast race, largely due to the weather,” race Chair Glenn Emberley told the Aurora. “These racers were back two days early something we haven’t seen before.”
By the time the winners had arrived 17 of the 41 teams had scratched for various reasons.
Cain’s Quest is a grueling race, through the wilderness of Labrador that covers 3200 kilometers. The race starts and ends in Labrador West and travels to Churchill Falls, up to Nain, down the coast to L’Anse au Claire and back to Labrador West through Happy Valley Goose Bay.
If you’re interested, the next edition will be in 2020.