Teams are finishing the race two days early. In the lead is Team 22, or Team Maine. But riders Innu Hawks and Southern South Racers are close behind.
Cain’s Quest is a snowmobile endurance race, but the competition is about more than crossing the finish line first. In the toughest race of its kind, 41 racers compete for a top prize of $100,000. But what’s transpired since they’ve crossed the start line in Labrador West on Friday exemplifies camaraderie at heart.
“This is where the Innu get their strength from,” says Innu elder Elizabeth Penashue.
Smiling from the start line, the 73-year-old says the race reflects the Innu way of life.
“Working together, out in the wilderness, Watching my kids take off, that’s where their strengths will come.”
There are eight Innu teams. With Teams 30, 32, 29, 00, 100 and 99 riding within close proximity to each other during most of the race. But make no mistake, if someone from outside of their group needs help, the riders would lend a hand or a part.
“That’s what we do for a living,” says Randy Malleck, Team 99. Randy and partner, Didier, have been among the top contenders in this year’s race.
Along the route there are 19 checkpoints, places where teams fuel up and rest both the body and spirit. Riders get a warm meal and a chance to meet some of the people who call places like Hopedale, and Nain home.
“I’m not the only one that is proud of this race. We all are in Labrador West,” says Labrador West MHA Graham Letto.
Cain’s Quest is run by a board made up of 11 people. Alongside them there are 400 volunteers waiting at checkpoints, feeding racers and helping along the route.
“If every community in this province had the volunteer base and the enthusiasm that we do here in Labrador West, we would be in such great shape,” says Letto.