It’s not a sprint race and it’s not a distance event, but yet it’s very different from any other stage race in the world. La Grande Odyssee, a two-week event in the French and Swiss Alps is classified by its officials as the toughest long-distance stage race in the world. And with huge mountains to climb, descend and traverse; blizzards, rain, avalanches and 180-degree switchbacks, one participant even went so far as to call it the toughest race in the world.That’s debatable, but it is extremely arduous and the challenges unyielding.You can see it all for yourself in ‘La Ruee Blanche’ a 110-minute DVD which recounts the 2008 version of La Grande Odyssee, the fourth edition of the race.The film begins with glorious scenes of the Alps and quickly cuts to clips of sled dogs, huskies and pointer crosses alike, getting ready for the first day of racing.Mushers from Canada, the US, Scandinavia and all over Europe compete in the LGO and over two weeks, racers complete over 620-miles of trails through 20 French resorts and four Swiss resorts, and climbs totaling 80,000 feet.The DVD of ‘La Grande Odyssee, Savoie Mont-Blanc 2008’ is a high-quality account with breathtaking shots of the mountains, emotional moments between driver and dog, dramatic music and shots that will have you gasping out loud. One of those exciting shots came later in the film (which overall is a little long in my humble opinion) when the mushers partook in a mass start and the whole thing was shot from a helicopter above and from a trailside snowmachine. It will have you holding your breath to see who gets out first, who gets tangled and how the dogs perform.Each of the dozen or so stages start and finish with a fanfare and media frenzy. The mushers are treated like rockstars and the streets are lined with fans and well-wishers reminiscent of the Iditarod’s ceremonial start. Fans keep track of the mushers out on the trail online as the teams are equipped with GPS. Huge screens are set up at the start/finish line for fans to watch the virtual teams travel down the trail.But the film brings you, the viewer, out on the trail with the teams as they negotiate exhausting climbs, perilous downhills, wind and tricky conditions over stages that range from 13 to 60 miles.The mushers, who are competing for a $100,000 purse, can have 14 dogs to use over the two-week race, but can only start with a maximum of 10 dogs on the gangline. They can switch out dogs from day to day if so desired. For the most part, the film focuses on the race for first between Swiss musher Emil Inuaen and Swedish contender Petter Karlsson. Lots of interviews and play-by-play at the finish line make for a dramatic conclusion, but honestly I would have liked to hear more stories of other mushers and anecdotes about the dogs. The film, and therefore the race, appears to be focused on its image more so than the participants, two- or four-legged.But the competitors, at least those who appeared on camera, had no real complaints about the trail, the race or anything else.It was interesting to see some of the strategies involved in this unique event. The mushers needed sprint-like speed with the endurance and grit of distance dogs.Plus, the mushers themselves were running up a lot of these behemoth mountains, so they themselves had to be in top physical form.“To win this race you’ve got to be quick but also tough,” the announcer declared in the film.In the end, it was the Swede that won the 2008 event.“I can’t explain how happy I am now,” said Karlsson into the camera. “I have been dreaming about this…and it’s a dream come true.”The DVD is of European format and therefore will not play in most standard American DVD players. It will play on a computer. The film has French and English versions and was put out by Grand Nord FILMS. It is available from


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