One of the biggest events of the racing season is fast approaching and with it less than a month away it is time to start talking predictions for this year's Ausable River Canoe Marathon. For those of you unfamiliar with the second leg of the Triple Crown of Canoe Racing this iconic event is a straight 120 mile course that follows the Ausable river from the interior Michigan town of Grayling, all the way to the Oscoda on the coast of Lake Huron. The course starts with a Lemans Start in the streets of Grayling at 9pm on Saturday July 27th and continues down the river past the 6 Hydro-electric dams that must be portaged through the night. It is a gueling test of endurance not only for the paddlers, but also for the pit crews and the spectators.
The current list of competitors is showing that the field will be very competitive this year just as it normally is at this great event. As of the writing of this article there are currently 81 teams entered but from my anonymous source that there are some big teams entries that just haven't been received as of yet. With that in mind lets start breaking down the teams that will definitely be in contention for the coveted top 10 spot and some of the matchups that could surprise the field.
The clear favorites will have to be the team of Andy Triebold and Steve Lajoie in the #1 boat. Steve is coming off of a fresh win at the Clinton and although Andy didn't make the trip out to NY this year that should not be a problem with his track record at the major races and if he is able to get enough training in prior to the event. The next 2 spots should be taken by the same 2 teams that took 2nd and 3rd at the Clinton, these being Levever/Schlimmer in the #98 boat and Blais/Frigon in the #2 boat. With this being said, the length of this race can definitely have an effect on the placings as there is a lot of time for something to go wrong from nutritional issues, to mechanical issues, or even the occasional injury on the course.
The remaining 7 placings of the top 10 are where it is going to get a bit harder to predict. Most of these teams are not the same as they were for the Clinton. With the jumbling of partners it can sometimes be hard to predict who is going to match up well and what teams might struggle through the night and come up on the short end. The following are the main teams we currently know of that have the capabilities to reach the top 10.
Now that is 14 teams vying for only 7 spots to reach the top 10. Out of these teams there is only one pair that raced the Clinton and that was the 8th place team of Zaveral/Quesnel. One thing is for certain, this is going to be a fun race to watch!
In the Mixed Division we might see a top 10 finish with the team of Lauth/Schlimmer in #89 boat but there are also a couple of more teams that will likely be top 20 contenders including Gelinas/Lessard, and Kolka/Kolka.
In the Women's division we might be looking at another record breaking year. The current record holders Davis/MacHattie in the #37 boat. This is going to be a race I am watching out for though as there looks to be a pretty good field so far. The below teams are the current all female teams that will be trying to best Davis/MacHattie the last weekend of July.
Reading all of the teams that are signed up this year has me feeling very sad that I am going to be missing out on the action. If you have never been to Grayling the last week in July you do not know what you are missing. The atmosphere is absolutely electric and I am confident this year might be even more exciting that the rest. Can't wait to see how the chips fall in Oscoda this year!