Destne v Orlickych horach (Czech Republic), Jan 27 (efe-epa).- About a hundred mushers from various countries harnessed the amazing dog power of their furry companions to slosh through icy snow in a long and trying dog-sled race held each year in the frosty mountains of the Czech Republic, an epa-efe photojournalist reported on Sunday.
An assortment of magnificent wolf-like dogs – including huskies, Alaskan malamutes, eskimo dogs, samoyeds, chinooks and plenty of mixed-breeds – exhibited their strength and durability over the weekend while vying for the trophy in the Sedivackuv Czech Long Trail 2019, one of the premier events of its kind.
The extreme race, billed by organizers as the longest in the Czech Republic and one of the hardest in Europe, involves four days of different stages taking place on the slopes of the eastern Orlicke mountains, located next to the border with Poland and about a two-hour drive away from Prague.
The epa-efe reporter witnessed competitors setting up an overnight bivouac and prepping their loyal and fuzzy teammates for a glacial resting break near the small village of Destne v Orlickych horach before resuming the exhausting race of either 200 or 300 kilometers (124-186 miles), depending on the modality chosen by the mushers.
In the end, it was Roman Habasko of the Czech Republic who managed to win in the 300-km category with an astonishing time of just 27 hours, 42 minutes and 52 seconds. He was followed by Germany's Alexander Rode (34:17:19), and Czech musher Jana Hellerova (34:30:04).
The 200-km format was further subdivided into several subcategories according to the type of sled, such as Scandinavian, two limited categories with either 3-4 or 5-8 dogs and an open category with more than eight dogs. Some racers even swapped the traditional sled for skis to participate in the "pulka" modality, a sort of cross-country skiing but with the help of 1-3 dogs.
According to the epa-efe journalist, this year's edition – the 23rd overall – saw very similar weather conditions to 2004, one of the harshest on record. Severe cold and snowfall caused around half of the participants to prematurely pull out of the race, most of them following the second day, which saw particularly rough weather.
The Sedivackuv Long was born in 1997, when a group of Czech dog sledding fans organized an experimental "zero" year in the last week of January, which typically sees a copious amount of snow in the region.
On the eve of that first race, two dogs belonging to race manager Pavel Kucera ran away and one of them, a Siberian husky who went by the name Sedivak, was shot to death in a remote village by a local resident.
The race still took place despite the tragic accident, but to this day, the event still bears the name of the ill-fated hound to honor his memory, according to the official website.
The 23rd Sedivackuv Long saw the initial participation of around 100 mushers from 11 countries – with a strong presence of German, Austrian, Swiss, Italian, Dutch, Croatian, Hungarian and Polish competitors – and 700 dogs.
By David Latona