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U.S.-Soviet sled dog race gets official OK

NOME, Alaska -- Organizers of the first sled dog race from Alaska to the Soviet Union announced Thursday that the Soviets have given their OK and plans are in place for the race to be run this spring.

Mushers will drive teams of Alaskan and Siberia huskies hitched up to dog sleds for a 1,200-mile trek from Nome, on Alaska's Bering Sea coast, to Anadyr, on the Soviet side of the Bering Strait.

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The race, named the Hope 91 International Intercontinental Sled Dog Race, is scheduled to start April 5 with 36 teams that will include Alaska's top mushers and teams from the Soviet Union. Mushers from Norway, Japan and Switzerland also were expected to be entered in the event.

Entry deadline - the entry fee is 3,000 rubles or $500 - is Feb. 20.

Many of the mushers expected to race to Russia were entered in the 1, 150-mile-long Anchorage-to-Nome Iditarod Sled Dog Race, which starts March 2.

Top Iditarod mushers should reach Nome in less than two weeks if no blizzards interfere. That should give top teams more than two weeks to rest before racing on to Russia.

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This year's Iditarod includes the race's first Soviet entrants. From Nome, they will head home in the Hope 91 race along with several compatriots expected to enter as well.

The Hope 91 race will lead mushers from Nome up Alaska's Seward Peninsula to the village of Wales, which looks out across the Bering Strait.

Because the Bering Strait ice is often unstable and can even have holes in winter, teams will get rides across the55-mile-wide strait in Soviet military helicopters, flying to the town of Uelen.

From Uelen teams will head down the coast to Anadyr, where the race will end.

The Soviet Bering coast is said to be more rugged and have more severe weather.

'The event will prove the ultimate ability of the musher and the ultimate ability of the dogs,' said Leo Rasmussen, Alaska co-chairman of the event.

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