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Frost knocks out all but one musher in Volga dog sled challenge

January 30, 2014, 16:46 UTC+3 ULYANOVSK
German musher Silvia Furtwangler remains the sole hopeful eyeing the finish of the Volga Quest dog sled race
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Musher Silvia Furtwangler of Germany and her sled dogs

Musher Silvia Furtwangler of Germany and her sled dogs

© EPA/EDDY LEMAISTRE

ULYANOVSK, January 30. /ITAR-TASS/. German musher Silvia Furtwangler remains the sole hopeful eyeing the finish of the Volga Quest dog sled race across two Volga river regions — all other participants defeated by severe frosts, race promoters reported on Thursday.

Silvia is heading from Ulyanovsk region to the finishing point of Kazan, capital of Russia’s republic of Tatarstan. “The athlete is in no hurry. She has no contenders left,” officials said. She even managed to take a two-hour nap, warming in a sleeping bag near the Ulyanosk region town of Segilei.

Russia's severe winter has not discouraged the German musher, remaining vigorous and cheerful. Silvia has been in the dog sled sport for 24 years but says her main achievements are “four children and five grandchildren”.

All other contenders dropped out of the race on a difficult lap from Samara region to Ulyanovsk, where temperatures plummet at the moment to minus 35 degrees Celsius.

Some athletes were injured. Driver Oleg Tyuryumin broke his leg and had to reach a clinic unaided, on his sled. Dogs also were hurt, with paws dislocated or broken. Promoters said such extreme races demanded not only stamina but also knowing how to handle the dogs.

“A dog must know the main commands and be responsive to the voice of the driver,” Artur Chubarkin from Togliatti explained. No force against the dogs, either. They will stop taking commands and fear the blows, he said.

Entrants in an event extreme for all spent two days in Ulyanovsk region. A long stopover brought rest in the town of Sengilei, and then Germany's Silvia headed for the village of Staraya Maina before sledding down the Volga to Kazan, where Volga Quest 2014 finishes on February 2.

The race started in Samara region's Togliatti on January 25, attracting drivers from Russia, European countries and the United States. The 640-kilometre route runs across the major cities of Togliatti, Ulyanovsk and Kazan, embracing the sites of a historic Volga region where, through the ages, the great waterway has hauled Eastern cargoes to Russia's north.

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