The Lekkarod with Valérie Maumon: the mushing of the heart
Participating in the Lekkarod sled dog race is reliving the sensations of the world's first stage competition. In a family atmosphere, the mushers and their team share a week full of emotions. The YLG agency went to meet Valérie Maumon , a lover of the great outdoors, of sliding sports, but above all of her pack, to discover the universe of a musher listening to her animals .
Valérie Maumon, can you tell us how you became a musher?
I live in the Alps. Winter sports, endless landscapes and animals have always been part of my daily life. I need it to thrive.
My first dream was to have a husky, because this dog symbolizes for me the free nature. We adopted two with my husband for hiking, skiing and sledding. I discovered that the nature, slide and dog combination represents the winning trio for me .
I therefore inquired specifically about mushing with Isabelle Travadon, breeder in Lapland. She explained to me that our dogs were not cut out for racing, but more for shows. She directed me to her working line more suitable for competition, the purebred Siberian huskies .
To the first two dogs, a third is then added. I immediately noticed that the latter was indeed made for running and towing. My musher adventure started like this. We adopted another, then another, before having litters and finally counting 14 dogs at home !
How is the daily life of a musher and the training of a pack?
The season starts in September. Above 13°C, the dogs suffer from the heat, so we go up to the peaks for 4 training sessions per week . We run throughout the season from 15 to 35 km, first by quad and then by sled when the snow arrives.
Mid-January, the competitions begin. Being a musher is like being a manager in a company , you have to coach your dogs and listen to their needs so that they give the best of themselves .
With my team of 6 dogs, we have been taking part in stage races for about ten years. Keeping the group intact and in perfect physical shape is a real challenge, especially since my dogs are among the oldest at 11 years old. This did not prevent us from winning the Chamrousse trophy and coming second in Bessans for the 7th edition of the Lekkarod!
From March to September, it is a period of rest with canicross type activities, hiking, running and walks in freedom. I take advantage of these moments to bring even more attention to my dogs.
What's your secret to keeping your dogs in such good physical shape?
I believe that letting go is essential to winning a race. With a unique pack of dogs, group emulation makes it possible to reach a state of motivation and an incredible desire to surpass oneself. We are a strong and united team.
If I encounter a difficulty during a race, I prefer to let the animal rest and leave with a reduced number of people. I trust my dogs and we always adapt. Their well-being remains my priority and it has been successful for us for all these years.
We never gave up any race : 6 dogs and 9 days of stage, if not nothing.
What are the advantages of being a woman in a sled dog race?
Mushing is a non-gendered universe. There is no distinction between male and female. From a physical point of view, a woman has more difficulty stopping a pack, it is undeniable, but we have another strength.
Without generalizing, a female exhibits greater sensitivity and a motherly approach to her pack . I am constantly listening to my dogs.
I also transmitted my love of dogs to my children who grew up in this universe. Mushing remains my passion, but the whole family participates in it from near or far. My husband, Xavier, takes all the photos and images of our races. It is his passion. We are a real family pack!
How was the Lekkarod sled dog race?
We have never missed an edition of the Lekkarod ! It is an emblematic race, because each stage requires very different physical aptitudes . It requires dogs to be trained for all types of terrain.
With a unique hitch, the animals must stay in top form to chain the days of racing. Recovery periods are essential with a perfectly balanced diet and appropriate treatments such as massages .
I appreciate this race, because the atmosphere is family. Everyone knows each other and we like to get together every year. I'm in my element, my dogs too and it shows in our performance