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Canadian canine champions: Bristol Dryland Championship returns to Pontiac

Brett Thoms
Bristol October 29, 2022
The 12th edition of Bristol Dryland Championship was held at Timberland Tours last weekend. The dog race competition drew over 200 teams from across Canada, the US and from as far away as France.
The race was to determine who would be the Canadian champion and qualify contestants for the world dryland championships in 2023, according to Denis Rozon, the organizer of the race.
Over two days the races were broken down into various categories ranging from someone with running a dog, called canicross, to competitors being pulled by one dog on either a bike or a scooter, to competitors being pulled on cart by either four or six dogs, all on a trail that reaches up to 6.4 km.
“Bristol Dryland is the biggest in the world. That’s where the professionals are,” said Rozon about the quality of the athletes at the event.
While the turnout in terms of the number of teams didn’t return to its peak that it hit in 2019 of 300 teams, Rozon was satisfied with the event and its ability to keep up with standards established in previous Bristol Dryland championships.
“We have a very good reputation here. But it’s not only Denis Rozon, It’s the team I have. A lot of people from the Pontiac help this happen here. Volunteers and lots of sponsors who without them this couldn’t happen,” said Rozon.
“It’s one of the best organizations for dryland racing, so we always want to come in and do the race,’’ said Kati Dagenais, several time world champion sled-dog racer and musher, in an interview with THE EQUITY .
Dagenais, who is experienced in both traditional sled dog competition on snow and dryland racing on wheels explained the differences between the two variations of dog racing.
“When the sled dogs are on dryland they don’t have that much to pull because you’re on wheels, but they work much harder on the snow,” explained Dagenais. “So, the training is a bit different for dryland and the snow. The selection of dogs is also different because we do much more distance, so the endurance and the strength is a bit different.”
When asked what the secret of success in the sport is, Dagenais explained that it came down to the quality of dogs.
“It’s all about the dogs. It’s healthy dogs, well-trained dogs and happy dogs. We’ve been breeding with Alaskan dogs and some German Pointers for many years now, and it’s natural for them to pull and to be sled dogs,” said Dagenais.
As to what specific skills the drivers need to possess, Dagenais focused on how essential teamwork is with the dogs. “You don’t have a steering wheel,” said Dagenais. “So, you have to count on the dogs to run and keeping the trail and everything so you have to make a team with your dogs.”
Dagenais also described her accidental start in the sport.
“My first World Championship was in Quebec. We won the race. And then that’s when I got on the kick of doing sled dogs. It was supposed to be my husband but he was injured at that time, so I took his team and since then, I’m the one riding the dogs. He’s my coach now,” said Dagenais about her origins in the sport.
In all the races in various categories spanned over the two days, and saw a total of $ 7,125 dispersed amongst those who placed in the eight categories, with the biggest purse of $500 going to the winner of the six-dog cart race.

Kati Dagenais, several time dog sled and dryland champion and winner of multiple gold medals, in front of her van at the Bristol dryland race.
Chomping at the bit. Dogs are ready to be released right at the start of a circuit in the four-dog car races.

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