Although Cain's Quest 2022 is more than a year away, organizers are postponing next year's race, pushing the 3,000-kilometre snowmobile competition to 2023.
In a news release posted on the organization's Facebook page Monday, the organizing committee said due to the uncertainty around COVID-19 and the amount of time racers need to prepare, it's in everyone's best interest to postpone.
The race, which is held every other year, brings hundreds of racers, support crews and fans into communities throughout Labrador.
"The decision made to postpone the race wasn't an easy one, we did it with numerous amount of people and different stakeholders … but at the end it comes down to the fact that COVID is still a real risk to the business and to the race," said Cain's Quest chair Chris Lacey.
Lacey said racers spend a lot of time in Labrador in the off-season scouting routes, visiting communities on the coast and shipping equipment, and teams from outside the province would be at a disadvantage without being able to come to Labrador to run routes.
"There are so many aspects of the planning phase that they would be doing. For us to put them in this thing now would risk so much of their money and so much of their time and effort," said Lacey.
"It's definitely a downer. Everybody is hyped up," said Shannon Strangemore.
Strangemore and his racing partner Dave Dumaresque have raced in every single Cain's Quest since the start of the event. They thought last year would be their final competition but they ran into some mechanical issues around the first checkpoint and weren't able to complete the race.
"The last couple years we have been pretty unfortunate and had some pretty bad luck. Next year was our year to hopefully have a clean run," said Strangemore. "I guess we will have to wait for 2023."
The team had already started planning for next year, looking at some different routes and faster ways to get in and out of different communities along the track.
Strangemore said he's sympathetic to people who were thinking about racing in Cain's Quest for the first time, but his team is taking the postponement as an opportunity to do some extra planning.
He also believes this gives teams a better shot when looking for sponsors, as businesses over the past year have been hit hard by the pandemic.
"We have been at this since 2006 so an extra year is only an extra 365 days to prepare. That's how we are looking at it," he said.
Cain's Quest is a busy time in Labrador West as racers, support staff and fans take over the region. Some businesses say it's sad there won't be that financial boost next year.
"Normally it's all hustle and bustle, we are a full house.… We are usually full with teams and support staff," said Koren Moore, acting manager of the Two Seasons Inn in Labrador City.
"It's sad because we are going to lose a lot of business from that."
Moore said it has been a particularly tough year for the hotel as they had to shut down for four months at the beginning of the pandemic.
She said business has started to pick up, but it's not back to what it normally would be during this time of year. However, she said, she understands the event has to follow proper COVID-19 protocols to keep everyone safe.
"It's very tough on everybody involved," she said.
Since the start of Cain's Quest the competition has been cancelled only one other year, and that was due to warm weather.
This year Labrador has seen unusually warm temperatures, which is causing problems along Labrador's coast, with thin ice and less snow on the ground. Lacey said it would probably not be safe for teams to start scouting for next year's race anyway.
He said the weather is always one of their top concerns as warm weathers are being experienced more frequently.
"Weather is always a big concern of ours, where we put our racers through different parts of the terrain in Labrador," he said.
"We just hope that it always gets better and better but it's always there. It's going to be there on the top of our minds for sure."
'Come back better and stronger'
Strangemore said he hopes the excitement that revolves around the race doesn't wear off now that people will have to wait two more years to watch their favourite teams racing around the Big Land.
"Hopefully it won't stop the vibe we had going there because last race it seemed to be catching on bigger in the world more than ever," said Strangemore.
Lacey said the board is going to spend the next year thinking up ways to make the race even better.
"We are going to use this year to get some training, go out to our communities, our checkpoints, meet with them face to face, do some training and really put our thinking caps on. We are going to try to get those new ideas to liven up the race, make it a little bit different," Lacey said.
"We will come back better and stronger than ever in 2023."