Top 10 extreme sport holidays

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iol travel march 12 extreme sports Reuters One itinerary that is likely to have travel-lovers salivating is the seven-night Alaskan trip.

It is human nature to test the limits. Online travel adviser Cheapflights (www.cheapflights.com) have compiled a list of the most extreme sporting events in honour of the thrill-seeking, adrenalin-pumping daredevils who push the limits every day.

1. Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race – Anchorage to Nome, Alaska “The Last Great Race on Earth”, the Iditarod Trail started out as a supply route. In 1925, when diphtheria broke out in Nome, 20 mushers and 150 dogs rushed to deliver the antiserum from Anchorage. Every year since 1973, mushers from all over the world and their teams of 12-16 dogs prepare for 1 840km of snowy tundra, impenetrable forest and rocky terrain. If that’s not enticing enough, this year’s event started last Saturday, when the temperatures were below freezing and daylight hours still minimal.

2. Hell’s Gate – Il Ciocco, Tuscany, Italy. Tucked away in the picturesque mountains of Tuscany is one of the world’s most difficult Enduro races known as Hell’s Gate.

The race was designed in 2006 by the legendary Fabio Fasola who intended to separate the good Enduro racers from the amazing. Hell’s Gate continues to serve its purpose every year, and in 2010, just two of the 103 participants were able to complete the course.

3. Ice Climbing World Cup – Kirov, Russia. Rock climbing might be a popular sport for some, but throw in some ice and it’s a different game. Racing up a sheer ice wall with nothing but two ice picks in your hands and the spikes on your shoes might seem inconceivable to most, but to the participants of the 2012 Ice Climbing World Cup, it’s just another competition.

4. Crashed Ice World Championship – Quebec City, Canada. One of the most exciting up-and-coming winter events, this extreme sport generally consists of burly ice hockey players strapping on their skates and racing down an urban ice track. Sound easy? Add some sharp turns, steep drops, jumps and nasty falls and you’ve got nothing short of mayhem. The final leg of the 2012 World Championship Tour ends in Quebec City, at the Fairmont Le Chateau Frontenac.

5. Billabong Rio Pro – Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Screeching down the side of a massive wave with nothing but a board to save you from the roaring ocean is something only a professional adrenalin junkie could handle. The Association of Surfing Professionals Tour circles the globe every year, throwing its best at Mother Nature’s toughest waves from the Gold Coast of Australia to the Banzai Pipeline of Hawaii. This year, the stakes are even higher with a $500 000 payout to the winner of the Billabong Rio Pro in Brazil.

6. 24 Hours of Le Mans – Le Mans, France. This year’s event marks the 80th anniversary will be held on June 16 and 17. The trick to Le Mans isn’t simply speed; it’s juggling the mechanical needs of the car, especially the tyres and brakes that run down quickly, while testing the stamina of the three-man driving team. The cars take off at 4pm and fans fill the stadium and engines scream along the track until 4pm the following day. Some 200 000 visitors are expected to attend the parade held the Friday night before the race, a particular fan favourite.

7. Race Across America – Oceanside, California to Annapolis, Maryland. More than one-third longer than the Tour de France and crammed into a smaller timeframe, the Race Across America covers 4 800km of land. The race is open to amateurs and professionals, young cyclists and old cyclists and individuals or teams – as long as they complete the event in less than nine days. For those who race as individuals, they are expected to ride upwards of 560km a day to maintain an adequate pace, while teams can be as large as eight members.

8. The X Games – Los Angeles, California, US. If you missed this year’s Winter X Games Event in Colorado, have no fear because you can still catch the Summer X Games in Los Angeles. The X Games have expanded so much in recent years that there are even events held in China and France. This year’s summer events are sure to include competitions in motocross, rally car, BMX and skateboarding.

9. Badwater Ultramarathon – Badwater Basin to Mt Whitney, California. Beginning at Death Valley’s Badwater Basin 85m below sea level and ending, 216km later, at the base of Mount Whitney (elevation 2 530m plus), the Badwater Ultramarathon is considered one of the most difficult foot races in the world. Mid-summer Death Valley temperatures can reach 55°C, but there’s a big payout, right? Think again. For participants who have adequate finishing times – say under 60 hours – they receive a commemorative medal and bragging rights to completing the world’s most difficult race.

10. Artistic Wingsuit Competition – Siofolk, Hungary. It’s not a bird and it’s not a plane – it’s a wingsuit flyer. For those who decided skydiving was no longer a thrill, wingsuit flying was introduced and is quickly becoming a sought-after extreme sport. Daredevils interested in taking up such a sport jump out of planes thousands of feet in the air and take flight over several miles of the earth before popping open their parachute and landing (safely we hope). - Reuters

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