Quebec musher wins 70-mile Wilderness Sled Dog race
GREENVILLE, Maine – The sound of scores of dogs, barking with excitement, filled the freezing air at Leisure Life Resort on Saturday, as mushers and their teams made final preparations for the Wilderness Sled Dog Races. Sylvain Robillard, a musher in the day’s 70-mile race and a winner of this race in years past, was placing protective booties on his dogs’ paws. “This is a new team I have been training — so, I hope this is a very good practice for them. My ambition? My ambition, is hopefully to make the podium, but we’ll see.”
Beginning with the 70-mile racers at 9 a.m., followed by 30-mile racers at 10 a.m., mushers and their dog teams were led, one by one, into the race chute. The excitement was palpable as the dog teams, worked up to fever pitch and ready to run, strained against their handlers and anchor in the final seconds before being released into the race. Crowds of onlookers braved the cold and long walks from far-away parking spots to line both sides of the race chute to give teams an ecstatic sendoff.
After the last racer disappeared out of sight, many spectators simply left, others enjoyed activities and demonstrations at Leisure Life, while a determined handful of fans, made the journey to West Branch Pond Camps to watch the teams come racing through the checkpoint. Those that made the 29-mile trek to the camps were rewarded with both a majestic wilderness backdrop and an exceptionally close view as the teams raced through the camp.
At 1:11 p.m., Lara Renner of Alton, New Hampshire was the first 30-mile musher to return to Leisure Life Resort and cross the finish line, winning the race with a time of 3 hours, 2 minutes, and 11 seconds. Renner has run the Can-Am Crown 30 and the North Country mushers Wonalancet Race. Saturday was her first time competing in the 30-mile Wilderness Race. The other 30-mile racers, finished in the following order: 2. Rico Portalatin 3:05.59; 3. Amelie Aubut 3:17.51; 4. Lilly Anderson 3:41.00; 5. Steve Renner 3:53.38; 6. Daniel Coutu 4:08.16; 7. Jeffrey Ladd 5:22.41.
The winner of the 70-mile race was Andre Longchamps of Pont-rouge, Quebec, with a time of 5 hours, 13 minutes, and 24 seconds. Longchamps is a returning competitor in the Wilderness Sled Dog Race, and has also run Fort Kent’s Can-Am 250 a total of 10 times. He attributes his victory entirely to his dogs: “The care of the dogs — everything I do for the
dogs, every day — all the little things. I raised them all from babies.” Other finishers were: 2. Martin Massicotte 5:27.24; 3. David Boyer 5:28.50; 4. Etienne Massicotte 5:33.50; 5. Ashley Patterson 5:52.42; 6. Sally Manikian 5:56.36; 7. Sylvain Robillard 5:59.29; 8. Luc Gaudreau 6:06.44; 9. Yann Shaw 6:26.42; 10. Becki Tucker 6:28.29; 11. Gilles Harnois 7:29.49; and 12. Barry Dana 7:36.20.
Racers and fans enjoyed a warming bonfire in the evening hours, followed by an awards ceremony at Trailside Restaurant.