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Annual Dog Sled Race Begins in Alaska

  • VOA News

Cim Smyth of Big Lake, Alaska, drives his dog team along the Campbell Creek Airstrip during the ceremonial start of the 2014 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race on Saturday, March 1, 2014.

Cim Smyth of Big Lake, Alaska, drives his dog team along the Campbell Creek Airstrip during the ceremonial start of the 2014 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race on Saturday, March 1, 2014.

Nearly 70 competitors from around the world have begun a grueling race across the remote icy wilderness of Alaska for a chance to win the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race.

The sled drivers, known as mushers, and their team of dogs kicked off the 41st annual edition of the Iditarod Sunday with a ceremonial ride through the city of Anchorage. The teams then traveled to Willow, a community located 80 kilometers north of Anchorage, where the race officially began.

Over the next several days, the teams will brave bitter freezing cold and isolation as they sled across the Alaska tundra towards the finish line in the town of Nome, located along the Bering Sea -- a distance of about 1,600 kilometers, with several checkpoints along the way. The winning team is expected to arrive in nine days, with many teams taking several more days to reach the finish line.

The race was organized to pay tribute to Alaska's sled dog culture, which was the primary form of transportation and delivery of goods in the remote U.S. northwestern state before the advent of snowmobiles and airplanes, and to preserve the historical Iditarod Trail between Seward and Nome.

The winner of the race receives $50,400 and a new truck.

The defending champion is 54 year old Mitch Seavey, the oldest winner ever.

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