OSCODA, MI- The milestone 75th Consumers Energy AuSable River Canoe Marathon saw one man win his thirteen race and one rising star finally grab his first victory.
Steve Lajoie of Quebec, Canada teamed up with Michigan native Wesley Dean as the pair battled the competition for the duration of the 120 mile race before pulling away from the pack to take home the victory. For Lajoie it was his 13th win and second in a row. After runner up finishes in each of the last two years, Dean finally grabbed the top spot.
The winning pair finished the course in 14:23:06. It was a tight race up through the final checkpoint as the winners held just a five second lead over eventual runner ups Christophe Proulx and Ryan Halstead. Lajoie and Dean would pull away in the final miles. “It was tough competition. We did not know the outcome until we got a breakaway. We did not want to spring those guys ( Proulx and Halstead) to the end.” The 13 time champion gave a hint at retirement as he praised his partner for his first victory. ” It was a great day and I had a great partner. I am super glad for Wes, he has gotten his first one so more to come. It is probably done for me.”
Coming from nearby Traverse City winning the marathon has long been a goal of Dean. ” I have been dreaming of this since I was 15. It feels amazing.” Dean rode with Halstead to a second place finish last year and knew the threat his former partner posed. ” Like Steve said we did not want to sprint those guys, they are extremely fast.”
Whether or not this is the end for Lajoie remains to be seen. But he seems certain that for his partner there are going to be more wins to come. “More to come. He is up and coming and he improves every year. We knew he was fast and he has proved it in the last couple of years getting second. I thought we would be a good match. I think it was.”
Once again crowds back both the start in Grayling and the finish in Oscoda to witness one of the most unique events that Northern Michigan has to offer. With the special 75th anniversary in the books the marathon continues. Preparations have already begun for the 76th marathon in June of 2024.