Why did I feel uncomfortable answering this question?
Because I think the answer is yes.
Yes, I think a Siberian team could win Iditarod. Technically, every team that enters a race has a chance, however infinitesimal, of winning. But my answer is not based on technicalities. It is based on the assumption that in a long-distance format, Siberians are capable of maintaining speeds that would land them on the podium and in the record books.
But here's the kicker. Until proven otherwise, my views are just pure speculation. So, when he asked me if I thought Siberians could win, my initial thought was YES, of course. But that is such a ridiculous view to most mushers. Would the host seriously ask that question of any other musher? No. Because 99 percent of the mushing population would think the question as ludicrous as my actual answer. I didn't want to discuss my unconventional views while being recorded on a radio show I already felt nervous on, so I didn't say anything.
And we don't.
Not yet. And we won't this year. And maybe not next year, or ever.
I don't want folks to think I'm entering Iditarod with a Siberian team with intentions of being competitive. This is only my second year of actual distance racing & Goal #1 is to finish!! I think my dogs could be competitive, and that it would be fun to try, but I think it would be even more fun to get my belt buckle on the first try.
I'm entering Iditarod with Siberians because I love the breed & I love my dogs. I'm looking forward to seeing unfamiliar landscapes & facing unknown challenges with my best buddies, buddies utterly suited for the arctic climes we'll be traveling through. They were meant to travel this landscape, and we're going to do it at our own pace. A respectable pace to be sure, but not one determined by other mushers or race records.
So, why do I feel the need to justify my non-answer? What's the point in even talking about the concept of a competitive Siberian team?
Because I don't want my non-answer to be taken as a no.
In North America, we are seeing a small resurgence of Siberians in mid and long distance racing. And these teams are, in fact, starting to be competitive. I'm talking specifically about Rob Cooke placing 2nd in the Quest 300, Lev Shvarts placing 7th in the Northern Lights 300, and of course of Mike Ellis placing in the money (30th) in last year's Iditarod. And then there's me, who has yet to be last in a race, even running super conservatively. So I guess I just want to plant the idea in a few more heads: Siberians are not slow. Siberians have potential. Don't write them off so quickly, and don't feel so bad if they end up beating you ;)