FORT KENT, Maine — In a race that seems to defy expectations with above freezing temperatures, the 18th annual Irving Woodlands Can-Am Crown International 250 Mile Sled Dog Race could see some of its fastest finish times to date.
As of 5:30 p.m. Sunday last year’s winner Matt Carstens of Whitefield, N.H., along with Ryan Anderson of Ray, Minn., and Nathan Schroeder of Chisholm, Minn., had arrived at the final checkpoint in Allagash and were projected to reach Fort Kent just after 3:30 a.m. Monday.
The three teams were averaging speeds between 8 and 9 mph between the checkpoints from Portage through to Allagash.
“It’s really different this year,” longtime Can-Am volunteer Sandy Labbe said from race headquarters at Lonesome Pine Ski Lodge Sunday afternoon. “It’s really going faster than we had expected with the warm weather and the trails are great.”
Twenty-five mushers took off Saturday morning on Fort Kent’s Main Street as part of the weekend’s flagship 250-mile race with an estimated crowd of 8,500.
Despite temperatures that rose to the mid-40s during the day, all mushers were in the first checkpoint in Portage by 7 p.m.
Earlier that morning 25 teams took part in the Willard Jalbert Memorial 60-mile race and 31 mushers ran the Pepsi Bottling Group 30-mile course.
Dave Turner of Sandy, Ore., won the 60-mile race with a time of 5 hours, 45 minutes, 23 seconds. Coming in second was Sylvain Voyer of St-Donat-de-Rimouski, Quebec in 5:52:02; with Todd Sullivan of Lanark, Ontario finishing third in 5:53:02.
Genevieve Telmosse of Val-de-lacs, Quebec, won the 30-mile race in 2:22:21 with Rico Portalatin two minutes behind to take second place. Jack Trottier of St-Gabriel-de-Rimouski, Quebec, posted a time of 2:29:24 to claim third.
“Every year we do this we learn things and improve the race,” Labbe said. “This year everything went like clockwork.”
With the unseasonably warm temperatures there was some concern for the dogs, but Labbe said every dog finishing the 30- and 60-mile races showed good hydration and were injury free.
“Overall the trails were great,” Labbe said. “There was only one spot people reported having a hard time going through a logged area.”
Demanding is how first-time Can-Am 30 musher Marla Brodsky of West Chesterfield, Mass., described the course.
“It really made it a legit race,” she said. “That clear-cut section was nuts but it’s a race so you take what they give you and feel even more accomplished when you cross the finish line.”
Brodsky, who has handled for mushers in Alaska, said the Main Street start reminded her of a mini-Iditarod, a race she hopes to run in the future.
“It was really classic,” she said. “This is a town that makes the most of everything it can.”
Fellow Can-Am 30 musher Kim Paradis of Fort Kent agreed it was a challenging course, but a good trail overall.
“This was my first race and it went great,” Paradis said on Sunday. “The trails really were fantastic given the limited amount of snow we’ve had and my team had fun and looked really good at the finish.”