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Massicotte’s son to make Can-Am debut

Martin Massicotte, right, and Denis Tremblay share Can Am stories and others at the Swamp Buck in Fort Kent on Thursday, March 2. (Jessica Potila | SJVT/FhF)

Martin Massicotte, right, and Denis Tremblay share Can Am stories and others at the Swamp Buck in Fort Kent on Thursday, March 2. (Jessica Potila | SJVT/FhF)

FORT KENT, Maine — As far as sled dog racing goes, Etienne Massicotte’s Can-Am Crown profile probably says it all: “I am Martin Massicotte’s son, and mushing has been part of my life since I was born.”

The 15-year-old from St.-Tite, Quebec will make his Can-Am debut when he competes in the Pepsi Bottling/Allen’s Coffee Flavored Brandy Can-Am Crown 30 on Saturday. Meanwhile his father Martin Massicotte will defend his Irving Woodlands Can-Am Crown 250 title, in an endurance race he has won seven times.

Etienne surprised both of his parents with a fourth-place finish in his first ever mushing event, the Greenville Wilderness 70. Both Massicottes competed in the Moosehead Lake region race during the weekend of February 17-19.

According to Martin’s wife and Etienne’s mother, Marie-Josee Dulong, she and Martin nearly missed witnessing their son cross his first sled dog race finish line. Martin had just completed the race in second place, and he and Marie-Josee had brought his dogs to his pick-up truck. Neither expected Etienne to complete his first race anytime soon.

“We didn’t wait for him,” Marie-Josee said in astonishment. “A friend at the finish line shouted, ‘it’s coming, it’s coming’,” she said. The Massicottes made it back to the finish line just in time to see Etienne and his team complete the Wilderness 70 less than seven minutes behind his father.

Martin beamed with pride while discussing the experience at the Swamp Buck in Fort Kent, where the family stopped to eat shortly after arriving in town on Thursday evening. Marie-Josee translated Martin’s French to English.

“It was a great moment,” Martin said. “There is only one race that is the first time and you have to appreciate it at that moment.”

Etienne said he considers sled dog racing a fun hobby.

“I like to find the new territory. I like exploring,” he said.  

He took his father’s advice before running his team in the Greenville event.

“He asked me to run the race like the dogs were there at home. He said to snack the dogs every two hours, to slow down the dogs when they go down the hills, and to don’t hurt the dogs’ shoulders or paws,” Etienne said.

Martin and Etienne have always been close, according to Marie-Josee.

“Etienne is like his father. He is a fan of his father,” she said. “When Etienne comes home from school he talks about sled dogs with his father. Every time he has free time he’s with Martin. They have such a nice bond.”

Etienne was 7 or 8 years old when he started to train the puppies, Marie-Josee said, and this year, with his father’s help, he trained his own team.

Fellow musher Denis Tremblay joined the Massicotte family for dinner at the Swamp Buck. While the two senior racers chatted in French a well-wisher came up to shake their hands and wish them good luck in the race. He assured the pair that they could expect ideal trail conditions on Saturday.

“They will be hard but not icy,” the man said.

Marie-Josee said the Massicottes have made many friends in Fort Kent over the years, and always look forward to returning to Can-Am.

“There’s no other place like this here,” she said. “This is like when we come to visit family that you only see one time a year and they are all happy to see you. There’s no other place where we have this feeling.”

Tremblay and Martin are also good friends — and fierce competitors.

Massicotte has won the Can-Am 250 the past three years in a row. In 2015 and 2016 Tremblay finished the race in second place. The two recently competed in the UP 200 in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. That race saw Tremblay as the victor while Massicotte took second.

Marie-Josee said Martin knows that the others, especially Tremblay, will be coming for him at Can-Am.

“For sure Martin is like the rabbit of the race, everybody wants to catch him. He feels like that,” she said.  

The younger Massicotte has similar ambitions. Etienne said his goal is to finish in the top five at Can-Am.

In terms of his Can-Am 2017 goal, Martin expressed the wisdom that comes with years of mushing experience.

“I have come (to Can-Am) too much times with big expectations and experienced so much disappointment. Now I prefer not to think about that, and only focus on the dogs and how they feel,” he said.

The races will begin on Saturday with the 100-mile race leaving the starting line at 8 a.m. on Main Street in Fort Kent, followed by the 30-mile teams at 9:10 a.m. Competitors in the 250-mile feature race will head for the woods at 10:20 a.m.

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