Marchildon wins one of closest, toughest Can Am Crown sled dog races

One of Jamie Nelson's sled dogs checks out the crowd at the finish of the Irving Woodlands Can Am Crown International 250-Mile Sled Dog Race.
One of Jamie Nelson's sled dogs checks out the crowd at the finish of the Irving Woodlands Can Am Crown International 250-Mile Sled Dog Race.
A Can Am Crown sled dog shakes off some snow at the finish line Monday afternoon.
A Can Am Crown sled dog shakes off some snow at the finish line Monday afternoon.
In one of the closest finishes in Can Am Crown history, Andre Longchamps of Quebec finishes the 250-mile race in second place, seconds ahead of third-place finisher Jamie Nelson of Minnesota.
In one of the closest finishes in Can Am Crown history, Andre Longchamps of Quebec finishes the 250-mile race in second place, seconds ahead of third-place finisher Jamie Nelson of Minnesota.
Rene Marchildon of South River, Ontario, toughed out three days of rain, near blizzards and exhaustion to win his first Irving Woodlands Can Am Crown International 250 Mile Sled Dog Race Monday afternoon. &quotMy dogs pulled their freaking hearts out," Marchildon said after crossing the finish line in Fort Kent Monday afternoon.
Rene Marchildon of South River, Ontario, toughed out three days of rain, near blizzards and exhaustion to win his first Irving Woodlands Can Am Crown International 250 Mile Sled Dog Race Monday afternoon. "My dogs pulled their freaking hearts out," Marchildon said after crossing the finish line in Fort Kent Monday afternoon.
Fort Ken musher Mike Paradis' dogs bring him to the finish line of the Pepsi Bottling Co. Can Am Crown 30-Mile Sled Dog Race Saturday afternoon, March 5, 2011.
Julia Bayly | Special to the BDN
Fort Ken musher Mike Paradis' dogs bring him to the finish line of the Pepsi Bottling Co. Can Am Crown 30-Mile Sled Dog Race Saturday afternoon, March 5, 2011.
21-year-old Amy Beth Dionne from St David, Maine, drives her sled team down a crowded lined Main Street in Fort Kent  Saturday at the start of the Can Am Crown 30 mile sled Dog race. Dionne placed second in the race with a time of 3 hours, 9 minutes, 39 seconds. This is Dionne's second year of racing
21-year-old Amy Beth Dionne from St David, Maine, drives her sled team down a crowded lined Main Street in Fort Kent Saturday at the start of the Can Am Crown 30 mile sled Dog race. Dionne placed second in the race with a time of 3 hours, 9 minutes, 39 seconds. This is Dionne's second year of racing
21-year-old Amy Beth Dionne from St David, Maine, drives her sled team down a crowded lined Main Street in Fort kent  Saturday at the start of the Can Am Crown 30 mile sled Dog race.  Dionne placed second in the race with a time of 3 hours, 9 minutes, 39 seconds. This is Dionne's second year of racing.
21-year-old Amy Beth Dionne from St David, Maine, drives her sled team down a crowded lined Main Street in Fort kent Saturday at the start of the Can Am Crown 30 mile sled Dog race. Dionne placed second in the race with a time of 3 hours, 9 minutes, 39 seconds. This is Dionne's second year of racing.
Ben Hoops (Bib #21) of Lincolnville and Amy Dugan of Shirley cross the finish line of the Can Am 30 Saturday afternoon in Fort Kent.
Ben Hoops (Bib #21) of Lincolnville and Amy Dugan of Shirley cross the finish line of the Can Am 30 Saturday afternoon in Fort Kent.
Sisters Holly Dionne (left) and Amy Dionne of St. David bring Holly Dionne's team to the start line at the Pepsi Bottling Co. Can Am Crown 30-Mile Race Saturday morning, March 5, 2011. Dionne went on to place seventh in the event and Amy Dionne took second place in the race this year.
Julia Bayly | Special to the BDN
Sisters Holly Dionne (left) and Amy Dionne of St. David bring Holly Dionne's team to the start line at the Pepsi Bottling Co. Can Am Crown 30-Mile Race Saturday morning, March 5, 2011. Dionne went on to place seventh in the event and Amy Dionne took second place in the race this year.
Ben Hoops (Bib #21) of Lincolnville and Amy Dugan of Shirley cross the finish line of the Can Am 30 Saturday afternoon in Fort Kent.
Ben Hoops (Bib #21) of Lincolnville and Amy Dugan of Shirley cross the finish line of the Can Am 30 Saturday afternoon in Fort Kent.
Amy Dionne (right) of St. David hangs on to the lead dog on her sister Holly Dionne's team at the start of the Pepsi Bottling Co. Can Am Crown 30-Mile Sled Dog Race Saturday, March 5, 2011.
Julia Bayly | Special to the BDN
Amy Dionne (right) of St. David hangs on to the lead dog on her sister Holly Dionne's team at the start of the Pepsi Bottling Co. Can Am Crown 30-Mile Sled Dog Race Saturday, March 5, 2011.
Mike Paradis of Fort Kent comes in with the snow at the finish of the Can Am 30 Saturday afternoon.
Mike Paradis of Fort Kent comes in with the snow at the finish of the Can Am 30 Saturday afternoon.
Rene Marchildon of South River, Ontario, spends a few moments with his leaders before they head out of town at the start of the Can Am Crown 250 Saturday in Fort Kent.
Rene Marchildon of South River, Ontario, spends a few moments with his leaders before they head out of town at the start of the Can Am Crown 250 Saturday in Fort Kent.
A pair of sled dogs is at the start of the Irving Woodlands Can Am Crown 250-Mile Sled Dog Race Saturday, March 5, 2011.
Julia Bayly | Special to the BDN
A pair of sled dogs is at the start of the Irving Woodlands Can Am Crown 250-Mile Sled Dog Race Saturday, March 5, 2011.
Can Am Crown 250 musher Rene Marchildon of South River, Ontario, boots his team before the start the race Saturday in Fort Kent.
Can Am Crown 250 musher Rene Marchildon of South River, Ontario, boots his team before the start the race Saturday in Fort Kent.
Irving Woodlands Can Am Crown 250-Mile Sled Dog Race musher Jaye Foucher (left) checks her leaders with handler Jill Carter at the start of the race Saturday, March 5,
Julia Bayly | Special to the BDN
Irving Woodlands Can Am Crown 250-Mile Sled Dog Race musher Jaye Foucher (left) checks her leaders with handler Jill Carter at the start of the race Saturday, March 5,
Close to 80 mushers and their teams of huskies took part at the starts of the Can Am Crown 30, 60 and 250-mile races Saturday, March 5, 2011, in Fort Kent.
Close to 80 mushers and their teams of huskies took part at the starts of the Can Am Crown 30, 60 and 250-mile races Saturday, March 5, 2011, in Fort Kent.
Gabriel Duplessis of St. Zenon, Quebec, won this year's Pepsi Bottling Company Can Am Crown 30-Mile Race with a time of 2:43:00 on Saturday, March 5, 2011.
Julia Bayly | Special to the BDN
Gabriel Duplessis of St. Zenon, Quebec, won this year's Pepsi Bottling Company Can Am Crown 30-Mile Race with a time of 2:43:00 on Saturday, March 5, 2011.
A husky in the Can Am Crown 30 waits to get hooked up before the start Saturday morning.
A husky in the Can Am Crown 30 waits to get hooked up before the start Saturday morning.
Elizabeth Rankin of Starksboro, Vt., signs off at the end of the Pepsi Bottling Co. Can Am Crown 30-Mile Race with race official John Pelletier on Saturday, March 5, 2011, in Fort Kent. Rankin finished the race in sixth place.
Julia Bayly | Special to the BDN
Elizabeth Rankin of Starksboro, Vt., signs off at the end of the Pepsi Bottling Co. Can Am Crown 30-Mile Race with race official John Pelletier on Saturday, March 5, 2011, in Fort Kent. Rankin finished the race in sixth place.
Posted March 07, 2011, at 5:25 p.m.
Last modified March 07, 2011, at 9:38 p.m.

FORT KENT, Maine — Rene Marchildon claimed his first victory in five attempts in the 250-mile Irving Woodlands Can Am Crown International Sled Dog Race on Monday afternoon when he crossed the finish line at 4:08 p.m., 42 hours after leaving the starting line Saturday morning.

In one of the closest finishes in the race’s 19-year history, Marchildon of South River, Ontario, was followed a minute later by Andre Longchamps of Pont Rouge, Quebec, who took second place just seconds ahead of third-place finisher Jamie Nelson of Togo, Minn.

Along the way the teams faced just about every weather scenario Mother Nature could throw at them, from driving rains Saturday night to near-blizzard conditions Sunday night and Monday.

“My dogs pulled their freaking hearts out,” Marchildon said soon after arriving in Fort Kent. “They really did it.”

Marchildon, Longchamps, Martin Massicotte of St. Tite, Quebec, and Denis Trembley of St. Michel-des-Saints, Quebec, all left the final checkpoint in Allagash within 15 minutes of each other, between 3:37 a.m. and 3:51 a.m. Monday, for the final 43-mile push to Fort Kent.

Four-time Can Am Crown 250 winner Massicotte arrived in fourth place Monday, and Trembley took fifth place.

Nelson left the checkpoint at 5:56 a.m. and caught up to the men nine miles from the finish.

Conditions were so bad on the last leg that Marchildon, Longchamps, Massicotte and Trembley stopped alongside the trail for three hours to rest their teams nine miles from the finish.

“We dug a fire pit, gathered firewood, hung up a tarp and just sat there,” Marchildon said, adding that Massicotte attempted to forge ahead but wind-driven snowdrifts in an open field forced him back to the impromptu campsite.

“I have three new best friends,” Marchildon said of the three other men.

At one point, Marchildon said, the snow was so deep he was forced to walk in front of the dogs, breaking trail.

“I had a lead [line] tied around me and the other end tied to the lead dogs,” Marchildon said. “We were going up this hill and I was just on my knees crawling.”

More than 14 inches of fresh snow blanketed northern Maine on Monday, and as conditions worsened throughout the day, Can Am officials dispatched trail groomers to pack the course.

“This weather is slowing the race right down,” George Theriault, race marshal, said late Monday morning. “We’ve sent out the groomers [but] there is more snow than they are used to.”

Marchildon’s best Can Am Crown 250 finish before Monday’s win was second place in 2005. He won the Willard Jalbert Memorial Can Am Crown 60-Mile Race in 2007.

By Monday evening, only one other musher remained in the race. Krister Rassoch of Sullivan, N.H., was at the Allagash checkpoint and projected to finish the race at 6:42 a.m. Tuesday.

More than two-thirds of the 23 mushers who started on Saturday had dropped out of the race by Monday morning because of the weather, dog problems or personal injuries.

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