Thanks to Yahoo News for this article.
Norwegian Iditarod champ races for the love of the dogs by Mira Oberman
WASILLA, United States (AFP) – Robert Sorlie’s dogsled team is going to drag the burly Norwegian fireman across hundreds of miles of Alaska’s most rugged terrain.
As they run the Iditarod — known as The Last Great Race — the two-time champion will ask his dogs to pull his sled for six to 10 hours at a time through blinding snowstorms and bitter winds.
And they love him for it.
Bodies quivering with excitement, 17 huskies burst into a chorus of welcome barks and strain against their chains as Sorlie approaches their snow-covered pen in the backyard of a low wooden house near Wasilla, Alaska.
This weekend, they will be clamped into their harnesses and zip down a chute for the start to the 1,100-mile (1,800-kilometer) race expected to last nine to 12 days for the winners and more than two weeks for the stragglers.
For now, the dogs are resting up, doing some light training to stay limber and getting used to how much colder the Alaskan nights are than those back home in Norway.
“This one’s Rolex. He’s one of my main leaders and he is one of my favorite dogs,” Sorlie says as the black-and-white husky lifts his snout to lick his face. “He’s happy, always ready to go and bowwowing.”
Sorlie, the only non-American winner in the race’s storied 34-year history, is one of the best mushers in the world.
A firefighter at Oslo airport, the 49-year-old Sorlie stays lean and strong by running, cycling and training his dogs for hours at a time.
Some say he wins the race because he can manage on just a couple hours of sleep a day. Others point to the fact that he pools his kennel with other Norwegian mushers to come up with the best team of dogs.
“He’s really tough and is extremely good with his dogs,” said Dean Osmar, the 1984 Iditarod champ. “He’s like a freight train.”
Sorlie is one of just six people who have won the Iditarod more than once and only the second non-Alaskan to win.