Stage 11 – Villard de Lans presented by Flexadin Advanced


Sunshine awaited the mushers on the heights of Cote 2000 in Villard-de-Lans for their 11th and final leg of La Grande Odyssée VVF presented by Flexadin Advanced, the final stage of the EBRA Trophy.

For this final stage, competitors had to climb the Salamandre piste to the chairlift arrival plateau at an altitude of 1,800 m, a 700 m vertical drop on a well-travelled piste. At the foot of the Arêtes du Jerbier, the descent on the Chevreuil piste offered them a great glide to complete this superb event, led from start to finish by Norway’s Hans Lindahl. He took the Crédit Mutuel-sponsored leader’s jersey in the Megève prologue and never relinquished it. In his 2nd participation, this musher became the first Norwegian to win the event. “I’m very proud to be the winner of this 20th edition. I wasn’t at my best with my accident and a day of fever, but my dogs were remarkable,” explains Hans, who at 58 has decided that this is his last racing season. “They are the real winners of La Grande Odyssée VVF,” he says with a smile. The Norwegian took a total of 11h 01 05”, giving him an average speed of 20.06 km/h. He was 7′ 3” ahead of Spain’s Iker Ozkoidi, who confirmed his international standing for his 3rd participation. Frenchwoman Elsa Borgey, “very satisfied with the behaviour of her two young lead dogs and her sporting performance”, completed the podium.

In the Nordic category, Jean Combazard was once again the winner in his category with a time of 13h 26’11”, thus retaining the Leader Nordic chasuble sponsored by Crédit Mutuel. This is his 12th victory, and although challenged on several stages by his two rivals, he gave them no chance. Clément Raux, who raced with a smaller team, took 2nd place ahead of Philippe Desmurger, who set off on this last stage with a heavy heart. His faithful lead dog Magnus, 8 years old, was running his last race, and the two companions, in osmosis for so many years and so many races, shared their last moments of adventure with nostalgia.

The EBRA trophy was won by Spaniard Carlos Franch. He led all three stages ahead of compatriots Harkaitz Aizpurua and Manel Niubo Eslava. “It was a great event,” commented Carlos Franch, who hopes to return next year. All the participants were very happy to have taken part in the event: “It was magnificent,” said young musher Cindy Lecroq, who was new to the event this year. “I’m so happy to share these moments with my lead dog Looky, who is retiring this year,” she concluded.

The Best Dog Care jersey sponsored by Royal Canin was awarded for the final stage and the whole race to rookie Gael Brossette.

“Once again this year, the conditions were ripe for this 20th edition to be a success,” said Annabel Kam, president of the event. “The whole Grande Odyssée VVF family, the entire staff, the KCIOP team, with the close cooperation of the slope and lift services, the local authorities and tourist offices, and all our partners, worked together to ensure the success of this unique race, year after year,” continued the president, who looks forward to seeing everyone in a year’s time.


At the prize-giving ceremony, Maren Loftsgard, Hans Lindahl’s daughter, was voted best handler of the race for her impeccable management of the winning team, particularly in the early stages when she was on her own. Always smiling, never hesitating to lend a hand to the other teams, respecting instructions and starting procedures, she showed herself to be very attentive to her dogs, whom she knows perfectly and looks after with great care, according to the mushers relations team and the vet team.

In the winning Norwegian team, Tom, the lead dog, was voted golden harness.

The rookie of the year price went to Lukasz Paczynski from Poland, who went from strength to strength throughout the race.

The fair play price went to Rodolphe Lardet.

The Red Lantern price was awarded to Spaniard Carlos Calico, who may have finished last, but completed all 12 stages of La Grande Odyssée VVF with a smile on his face and in good spirits.

The combativity price went to Gael Brossette.