Dog sledding is getting more and more popular. Ski resorts have realized this and the bigger ones are hiring professional mushers to give tourists a taste of their childhood when they used to read Jack London’s books. One dog can easily drag 100 kilos.
Race leader Jira Vondrak today near Bessans
The Grande Odyssée Savoie Mont-Blanc (GDO) was founded in 2005 by :
Henry Kam, President of GDO
Nicolas Vanier, famous French explorer and film director currently shooting a remake of the popular TV series “Belle et Sebastien”, the story of a little boy and his dog, in the Maurienne valley
Dominique Grandjean, directeur de course & veterinary
The GDO is an international dog sled competition which goes through the Alps. It is reputed to be the most difficult competition dog sled race in the world. It covers a distance of about 1,000 kms with a vertical (ascent/descent) of about 25km.
In 2013, 17 professional mushers are racing. Each musher has 14 dogs but only 10 of them participate in the race on a daily basis.
The dogs must go through a daily vet control, like a sportsman who takes part in an Olympic competition. A marathonian has 85 heart beats per second, each one of the GDO dogs does 225.
This year the dogs are between 18 months and 7 years old. The mushers are very close to their dogs, they work as a team. Each dog knows his exact role. During the competition, the front dogs are the leaders, the middle ones ensure stability and the most powerful dogs are positioned closest to the sled.
For instance Remy Coste (from the Beaufortin in Savoie) has 7 male and 7 female dogs competing in the GDO. At home he owns 40 dogs in total. He trains in the Espace Diamant and began preparations for this year’s event back in August. A few weeks before the competition, he up his training to 5 hours a day. Their business is a family one and he is assisted by his wife and their two boys aged 12 and 14 who act as handlers. Rémy’s wife is in charge of the dog’s food. Most dogs are fed on croquettes, salmon oil and meat. Remy himself trains by going jogging.
Each sled has an aluminium frame, with powerful brakes to control the dogs. The sled is supported by a pair of skis which are interlinked.
Storm on col de Mont Cenis today
This year the GDO started on 12th January and will finish on 21st January 2013. After a few pre-race worries the snow has been excellent to date despite difficult weather conditions with strong winds and occasional snow storms.
On 20th January, Czech Jiri Vondrak was first in the « classement général », followed by Frenchman Jean-Philippe Pontier, now some 28 minutes behind. Another few stages remain before the finishing line and all mushers and their teams must be praised for the excellent times they have achieved until now despite the harsh weather.
Isabelle Travadon between Bonneval and Bessans
Isabelle Travadon, one of the two female racers had an interesting experience at the Col de Saisies not far from her home. The dogs refused to continue as they knew the route home was in the other direction from the race course and they took a great deal of coaxing to get them moving again.