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article image'No winners' as 100 mushers brave tough Czech sled dog race

By AFP     Jan 26, 2019 in World

Only half of the 100 mushers who braved one of Europe's toughest sled dog races, the Czech Long Trail, finished the competition which ended on Saturday.

"We have exactly 100 competitors, of them 12 are taking part in the five-stage 300-kilometre (185-mile) race with total elevation topping 9,000 metres," head organiser Pavel Kucera told reporters.

The rest of the pack from 11 countries including Austria, Croatia, Germany, the Netherlands and Serbia competed on a 200-kilometre track with four stages and an elevation of of 7,000 metres (23,000 feet).

Besides mushers, the race is also open for bikers -- out of 10 taking part this year, three have set out on the longer track.

"We had an excellent start with frost, blue skies, lovely night rides. Now it's overcast and we've had some snowfall so we have experienced all kinds of conditions," Kucera said.

After several warm winters which forced the organisers to shorten the race or even replace the sleds...
After several warm winters which forced the organisers to shorten the race or even replace the sleds with four-wheel training carts, this year had the "best conditions since 2004"
Michal CIZEK, AFP

After several warm winters which forced the organisers to shorten the race or even replace the sleds with four-wheel training carts, Kucera relished "the best conditions since 2004".

"It had an impact on the mushers too -- we have 50-percent mortality, meaning that half of the racers have retreated," said the man with a huge grey beard.

The race is called "Sedivackuv long" in Czech, named after Kucera's dog Sedivak, who strayed just before the first race in 1997 and was shot dead by a local man.

The winner gets a diploma -- and can boast finishing the race, Kucera said.

"You're not doing this to win. In fact you can't win this race, you can only lose."

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