The True Challenge of Cain’s Quest – Andrew Milley
Just recently, we were fortunate enough to coordinate with Andrew Milley (2018 Cain’s Quest Winner) to bring you this inside look at the true challenges of competing in the Cain’s Quest event. To complement this piece, we hooked up with Josh Bingle of Labrador City for the awesome pictures. Many thanks for both Andrew and Josh for helping share this piece and helping others understand more about what’s branded as the “World’s Most Challenging Snowmobile Endurance Race”.
Sledworthy: Andrew Milley – how did your passion for snowmobiling start?
We moved to the Stephenville in the summer of 1997. My father purchased a leftover 1996 Skandic 380 from Central Service Station which was then setup in a basement on Main Street. Every Saturday from around approximately Remembrance Day to Easter he would take me riding with a group of guys from our church. They all treated me as their own and taught me some cool stuff I still remember. As we started riding longer days and going new places we also started breaking stuff. The team at CSR took us under their wing and kept us going. I was never into sports, but I got immersed into the backcountry riding culture and was completely hooked. I still try to ride every weekend with my dad, and I am very thankful for all the people that put up with me back then and helped me learn.
Sledworthy: Tell us more about yourself?
I’m 31, married to Meaghan and we have 1 boy, Gracen. After moving all through my childhood I’ve been settled in Lab West since 2004. I’ve been a mechanic since 2008 and I’m currently working on a welding trade. Snowmobiling is really my only hobby.
Sledworthy: Prior to competing in your first Cain’s Quest, what did you do to feed our desires?
The guys at Central Cycle in Gander got me in to drag racing. I did that for a few years. They are a great group that still help me whenever they can. I had a couple years filming with Josh Bingle for Braaap. That was fun, but we really don’t have the terrain or weather for it here in Lab West. We’d spend hours shoveling and setting up and freezing, then only a couple guys would hit whatever it was we made. Seemed like it was wasting time of a lot of people that wanted to ride with us but were just helping to be polite. We slowly started exploring more and more like Dad and I used to when we lived on the island.
Sledworthy: What does it take to be competitive in the CQ race?
Mostly the right team mate and the right team of people around you. Stock snowmobiles and over the counter accessories are way ahead of where they were 10 years ago so that piece of the puzzle is a lot easier. You can never train enough. Ride long hours and in the dark. Doesn’t hurt to have a few people at home praying for you too.
Sledworthy: How much preparation is involved in Race preparation?
It’s like a full-time job to prepare the way we do. I have no doubt you could spend a lot less time at it and still be somewhat competitive, but we go over and over every detail and possible situation we can think of with all the members of our team. It’s a lot of work.
Sledworthy: During either of the Races you competed in, did you ever question why you were doing it?
I know why I do it. The question in my helmet is “Should I be at this?” When you’re pushing there is a lot of risk. We’ve had a lot of close calls. I’m not as brave now around water in the dark.
Sledworthy: During a race, how do you stay positive?
I look at it as a full week dedicated to riding snowmobile with my buddy, and everyone who cares about us is doing everything they can to keep us riding. How can you not be positive on a week like that?
Sledworthy: Tell us about one of your most Challenging moments during a CQ race?
4 AM in Nain during the 2016 race I received a phone call that my Grandfather passed away. A few hours later I saw my father in Hopedale and he told me what I already figured out, he had to fly to the Island for the funeral. That day I had to deal with losing my grandfather and losing our main support crew man. That day I also pulled the pull cord out of my sled, blew a shock, destroyed an engine mount, destroyed 2 clutches because the engine mount went through them, ruined a slide and had to rebuild the front end on Rob’s sled…. later that week on the way to the finish line we got to a point where I realized one of the sleds could die and we could tow and still win. I cried in my helmet at that point. After all the work we put in my father wouldn’t be there to share the victory and I couldn’t call my pop anymore either.
Sledworthy: What advice do you have for others on the fence, thinking about competing?
People who have a lot of experience snowmobiling have been overwhelmed on this race, it’s not for everyone. My partner Rob says “Confidence is the feeling you have before you understand the situation.” It’s a very true statement. However, if you come into it with an open mind and stay flexible, not to committed to whatever plan you made before you completely understood what you were getting into, you probably won’t become overwhelmed. Along with not being over confident, you need to really figure out how much gas you need and how to carry it. A lot of teams have broken snowmobiles trying to carry too much gas.
Sledworthy: What’s next for Andrew Milley?
I’m currently working on another work trade. I need to be done with that before committing to anything too serious with sleds. I’d like to do a two man race in James Bay, QC with Rob. I don’t expect we’d have a ton of success on our first attempt, but we would have a ton of fun figuring it out. I’m hoping everything will come together for Cain’s Quest 2022. Beyond that I’d like to get my pilots license. I realize that’s a pretty decent wish list, but I’m a firm believer in hard work and I think at least some of it will be attainable.