French team leads pack in Wyoming sled dog race

After kicking off the annual race in Jackson, the Europeans have a seven-minute lead. Teams will cross the finish line in Driggs on Saturday.
Remy Coste (right) finishes up a training run with his sled dog team, which traveled all the way from France. His partner, Aurelie Delattre (left), stands next to the blue bus the team shipped to the U.S. to use as a mobile dog kennel. (Caitlin Tan/Wyoming Public Radio)

by | Feb 1, 2024 | Recreation, Sports

This story comes through a content-sharing partnership with Wyoming Public Media.

On an unseasonably warm January morning, people gathered by the Pedigree Stage Stop sled dog race finish line in the Upper Green, just north of Pinedale. 

“And here he is, our current leader. Remy Coste from France. Welcome back Remy,” Dan Carter,  Pedigree Stage Stop sled dog race director, announced over a microphone. 

Remy Coste and his team of nine hound-looking dogs swooshed through the finish line. The tenth dog tired toward the end of the trail, so Coste put him in the sled for the remainder of the run. 

Coste and the dogs head out for a training run in the Upper Green. (Caitlin Tan/Wyoming Public Media)

“We’re all very anxious to see what the times are after today’s stage. So stage four, this is kind of ‘hump day,’” Carter said earlier this week.

The 225-mile race is done in stages over about a week. Each day is a 30- to 35-mile stretch in a different western Wyoming or eastern Idaho community, starting in Jackson and ending in Driggs Idaho. The daily times are added up at the end for the final places. It’s one of the harder races of its kind in the world.

Carter said the competition is stiff this year between the 15 teams. 

“Like, we have mushers that went in today that are competing against each other for spots that were, I think the closest was nine seconds,” he added.

And, the fight for first place is still up in the air. It’s between Coste’s French team and last year’s winner, Anny Malo of Quebec, Canada. 

“We’re walking [the dogs] and then going to let them drink and eat,” said Aurelie Delattre.

Delattre is Coste’s partner and team vet. To get here, they flew 31 dogs and shipped a giant blue bus that’s a mobile dog kennel and RV all the way from Europe. They are one of only two teams to have ever traveled from another continent in the history of the race’s 29 years.

The mobile blue bus that came from Europe to Wyoming by boat. (Caitlin Tan/Wyoming Public Media)

Coste is one of the best in Europe. And he’s proving himself in the states too. As of Jan. 31, he’s in the lead. 

“It goes very, very, very fast,” Coste said in a thick French accent about the day’s race. He spoke about the race as he diligently walked his dogs to cool them down, almost immediately after stepping off his sled. “And I catch Anny Malo very quickly.” 

Malo has won the race five times consecutively, making her the musher with most consecutive wins in the race’s history — no small feat. Coste is ahead of her by about seven minutes, as of the end of the stage five race near Kemmerer on Jan. 31. 

Interestingly, the two racers used different strategies the first few days. The race rules allow a pool of 16 dogs — so mushers can choose which dogs to run in their team each day. Typically, mushers will run a team of 10 or 12 dogs, so some dogs won’t always get a rest day. But, Coste chose to run a team of eight the first three days. Delattre said that’s intentional, it allows for more rest for the dogs, “that’s the idea. Because then they all have some resting time.”

Coste did bump it up to 10 dogs on the fourth race day because the conditions were more challenging. 

“It was windy this morning, and because the wind, if it [the snow] got softer, it would have been quite complicated,” said Delattre, Coste’s partner and team vet. 

The 15 teams have a rest day today, Thursday, Feb. 1. They’ll race in Alpine tomorrow, and finish up on Saturday, Feb. 3 in Driggs, Idaho. See the schedule here.

Coste holds one of his teammates after a training run. (Caitlin Tan/Wyoming Public Media)

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