Defending Can-Am champ Massicotte makes it four straight titles (updated 3 p.m., Monday, March 6)
FORT KENT, Maine — Martin Massicotte crossed the finish line at Lonesome Pine Trails ski area just before 9 p.m., Sunday, earning his record eighth Can-Am Crown 250-mile victory. Coming in second place was Andre Longchamps of Pont Rouge, Quebec just a half hour behind Massicotte.
“I feel so tired, I don’t realize it yet,” Massicotte said while sitting down inside the ski lodge.
“He pushed a lot (at the end) because he knew there was another team only 17 minutes behind,” said Massocotte’s partner Marie-Josee Dulong.
Massicotte, whose time on the shortened 209-mile course was 20 hours, 7 minutes and 38 seconds, said the fraternity amongst the mushers and the community involvement and community pride at Can-Am are his favorite parts of the event. “We can feel; the pride in the community,” Dulong said, adding that its is unique among the many races the couple travel to each season.
“It was OK,” Longchamps said as he sat chatting with Can-Am volunteers inside the lodge following his second-place finish. “It was shorter this year, but harder.”
Longchamps, who has yet to beat Massicotte at Can-Am in several attempts, said he was too tired and emotional to comment very much on this year’s race.
“I am very proud of my dogs,” he said.
Denis Tremblay’s team crossed the finish 16 minutes after Longchamps, making this year’s top three spots among the tightest in Can-Am history.
“My first goal was to win. To beat Martin,” Tremblay said with a laugh, sitting next to Massicotte inside the lodge Sunday night. “I beat him two weeks ago at the UP 200.”
Tremblay said this year’s course was fast, and the last-minute route changes were a challenge.
“It was a new race,” he said. “You needed a different strategy this year.” Tremblay said he had to slow down in the middle of the race, after his dog team ran a bit too fast early on.
Ashley Patterson of Shirley, Maine, finished fifth in the 250, coming in only 10 minutes behind Mike Hoff of Silver Bay, Minnesota. Both mushers arrived at the Fort Kent finish line shortly before midnight Sunday.
Beki Tucker of Dorchester, New Hampshire arrived at the Fort Kent finish line at approximately 10:30 a.m. Monday, earning a sixth-place finish in the Can-Am 250-mile event. Tucker had to carry one dog inside of her sled for a portion of the final leg between Allagash and Fort Kent.
An emotional Tucker told the dog handlers at the finish line that her dogs were all right. “I am just so proud of them,” she said.
Gilles Harnois of St-Alexis des Monts, Quebec came in seventh place, crossing the finish line shortly before 11:30 a.m. This was Harnois’ best finish in three attempts at the Can-Am 250.
St. David native Amy Dionne left the final checkpoint at Allagash just before 8 a.m. Monday and arrived shortly after lunch, finishing in eighth place. Dionne, who also finished eighth in 2015, had a total running time of 36 hours and 16 minutes this year.
Jaye Foucher of Wentworth, N.H. scratched from the race Sunday. She joined Carl Routhier and Marie-Eve Drouin as the three teams that have dropped from the race as of Monday morning.
Remy Leduc and Gen Raymond had not left the Allagash checkpoint as of 9 a.m. Monday morning.
The bitter cold at the start of the race Saturday morning had left by the time the first finishers of the 250 race crossed the finish line at Lonesome Pine Trails, and temperatures were hovering near a relatively balmy 10 F.
Massicotte, who lives in St-Tite, Quebec, is no stranger to the Can-Am and no stranger to Luann and Kevin Ouellette of Fort Kent, who have hosted the Quebecois musher for 13 years.
“He looked like he was ready this year,” Luann Ouellette said as she and husband waited inside the ski lodge for their Canadian friend to finish.
“He thought it would be against his old-time buddies again,” Kevin Ouellette said, referring to Tremblay and Longchamps.
Finicky winter weather did little to dampen the enthusiasm of organizers, racers and spectators at this year’s Can-Am Crown Sled Dog Races, which kicked off Saturday morning, March 4. This is the 25th year the northern Maine town has played host to the rugged mushing event, which temporarily transforms downtown Fort Kent into combination carnival and dog racing track.
Shortly before 4 p.m. on Sunday the leaderboard at Can-Am HQ showed that defending Can-Am 250-mile champ Massicotte had already arrived at the Allagash checkpoint just before noon, only minutes ahead of Andrea Longchamps. Third-place racer Denis Tremblay drove into Allagash a half hour later.
Officials said the temperatures are ideal for the dogs and the race trails are fast, and they expect the battle between the top three mushers to be a tough one.
A total of 14 mushers registered to take part in this year’s 250-mile race. The most mushers in the long race in recent years was 22 in 2011. That year only six teams finished the race due to a soaking rain followed by more than a foot of wet snow.
Bruce Langmaid of Kearney, Ontario took the top spot in the Can-Am 100, coming in with a time of just under eight hours, early Saturday evening. Langmaid is a veteran of nearly a dozen Can-Am 250 races, having won that event in 2003 and ‘04.
The race for second place in the 100-miler was a close one. Sylvain Robillard of Saint-Gabriel De Brandon, Quebec finished just four minutes better than third-place finisher Eric Chagnon of Parent, Quebec. Chagnon also finished third in 2013 in the 60-mile race.
Ed Clifford of Raymond, New Hampshire, finished first in this year’s Can-Am 30-miler race in 2:23.26. This was Clifford’s first 30-mile Fort Kent race since he first entered in the 1998 Can-Am.
Christine Richardson of Canaan, New Hampshire, came in second place with a time of 2:32.20. Eric Dore-DeLisle of Mont-Laurier, Quebec was the third-place fisher, with a time of 2:34.21.
Mushers crossing the finish line at Lonesome Pine Trails upon completing the Pepsi Bottling/Allen’s Coffee Flavored Brandy Can-Am Crown 30-mile race described a hard and fast course.
“It was hard and had a lot of mountains,” said fifth-place finisher and first-time Can-Am musher Etienne Massicotte of Saint-Tite, Quebec.
Daniel Coutu of Windsor, Quebec, who finished 10th in the race, said that despite falling on his side on the course, he will return to Can-Am next year. “With a new team,” he said.
Trail conditions concerned organizers in the week leading up to this year’s Can-Am races due to unseasonably warm weather. Volunteers were making adjustments to the course, including rerouting, the night before and into the early morning hours before the race. The soft snow and melting stream ice reverted back to a frozen landscape, however, when temperatures dropped 20 degrees, down to 13 F and wind chill values dipped as low as -8 on Friday.
Morning temperatures at the start were still below zero on the Fahrenheit scale with a blustery and frigid wind chill. Such cold weather challenged mushers and spectators alike, although the sled dogs took it in stride, and seemed to relish an opportunity to finally break free of kennels and the staging area.
“No mushers have complained about the cold weather,” said Can-Am Central Coordinator Frances LaBrie. “But, some are saying the trails are a bit rough.”
Due to water holes, exposed muddy roads and other potential trail hazards, race organizers had to reroute portions of the 250-mile race. This has resulted in a 209-mile race course, officials said. This is still an Iditarod qualifying distance, however.
In 2015 Massicotte crossed the finish line with a running race time of 28:57:47. That time, one of the fastest ever at the 250, was the veteran musher’s second victory in his current streak of three wins in Fort Kent.
Local musher Amy Dionne of St. David left Fort Kent Saturday morning in her third consecutive 250-mile race. The St. John Valley native is a veteran of five previous 30- and 60-mile Can-Am races, as well as races in other parts of the U.S.
“It’s all about the dogs,” Dionne said the day before the race.
The thaw and refreezing of the snow on the course this year makes for a fast surface, but also one that can present problems for the dogs’ feet.
“These icy conditions can be hard on the dogs,” said Hoff.
Jeffrey McRobbie of Wayne was back in Fort Kent as a spectator, a year after being struck by a snowmobile during the Can-Am 30-mile race.
“I’m just here to check out the race this year,” McRobbie said. “But, I’ll be back next year.”
Fans can watch the races unfold at https://can-am-crown.net/. Organizers have separate leaders boards for the races, and a software system that estimates the pace and tracks each musher on the course.
Can-Am headquarters and the finish line are located at Lonesome Pine Trails ski area, just off of West Main Street in Fort Kent.