Guided by a lead dog named Elvis, Blayne "Buddy" Streeper affirmed his status as a sprint-mushing rock star Sunday by rolling to his sixth victory in the Fur Rendezvous Open World Championship.
Streeper, a 36-year-old musher from Fort Nelson, British Columbia, won the three-day race by a 3.5-minute margin over Greg Taylor of Fairbanks.
He finished with a total time of 4 hours, 14 minutes, 51 seconds, to collect his first victory since 2010.
"The dogs, they were running like a smooth engine, everything just firing correctly," Streeper said. "It sounds easy on paper but this is the World Series, this is the Super Bowl, (and) to get that diagrammed play out there in the fourth quarter late in the game, a trick play, everyone's got to know exactly what to do, and they did it.
"I didn't have any stops today. They just worked their butts off today and I'm proud of them."
Streeper turned in the fastest heat on Saturday and the second-fastest on both Friday and Sunday. On Friday, he was one second off the lead, and on Sunday the only team to go faster was driven by his wife, Lina Streeper.
Conditions were ideal, he said. Friday's snow helped create a good trail, and Sunday brought sunshine and temperatures in the 20s.
"It was an absolute dream run out there," he said. "The trail's perfect, the team's perfect. It's a ride you're always going to remember, and it was a championship run.
"… The dogs love it. They're made for this, they're bred for this. Forty years of breeding and they paid off today. It was an awesome, awesome performance."
Lina Streeper's Sunday run of 1:23:21 beat her husband's third-heat time by one minute and boosted her from 11th place overall to sixth place with a three-day total time of 4:22:41.
Taylor was second in 4:19:16, less than a minute ahead of third-place John Erhart of Tanana, who clocked 4:19:57.
Streeper's victory makes him the third-winningest musher in the history of the race, which dates back to 1946. His first championship came in 2004, and he won four in a row from 2007 to 2010.
He trails 10-time champion George Attla and eight-time champion Roland "Doc" Lombard, who delighted fans with their rivalry during the 1960s and 1970s.
In the 1980s and 1990s, Streeper's dad and uncle – Terry and Eddy, respectively – were among the sport's greats, regular contenders at Fur Rondy and the Open North American in Fairbanks.
When Buddy was a little boy, their passion became his passion, and racing in the Fur Rendezvous Open World Championship became his goal.
"This is the race that I grew up idolizing," Streeper said. "My father and my uncle, they competed in this race in the '80s. My grandpa bought a $20,000 satellite TV in 1980 so he could get Channel 2, and the live coverage, And we would go over there like it was Christmas, like it was Thanskgiving, everybody in Fort Nelson that was interested in that, there'd be a hundred people in that little room.
"When (we) were 15, 16 years old, we were in career class, and kids were writing they want to be a teacher, they want to be doctor, and I wrote I want to come up to Anchorage and race in the Fur Rendezvous, and I get to do it. So I'm super proud of my team and I'm extremely fortunate and consider myself a very lucky man."
1) Blayne Streeper 4:14:51; 2) Greg Taylor 4:19:16, 3) John Erhart 4:19:57; 4) James Wheeler 4:20:21; 5) Kourosh Partow 4:22:18; 6) Lina Streeper 4:22:41; 7) Emilie Entrikin 4:23:21; 8) tie, Michael Tetzner and Marvine Kokrine 4:23:44; 10) Mark Hartum 4:24:26; 11) Jason Dunlap 4:25:43; 12) Jeff Conn 4:26:48; 13) Gary Markley 4:31:22; 14) Dave Turner 4:36:22; 15) Bill Kornmuller 4:37:06; 16) Don Cousins 4:39:52; 17) Nathan Sterling 4:42:49; 18) Evan Hahn 4:48:01; 19) Danny Beck 4:57:23; 20) Dennis Kananowicz 5:04:50; 21) Nikki Seo 5:05:08.