FORT KENT, Maine — If Laura Daugereau of Kingston, Wash., holds on to the lead, she could be the first-ever female winner of the 250-mile trek in the 20th Can Am Crown International Sled Dog Races.
The final leg of that race is expected to bring finishers in early Monday morning. But experienced mushers said Sunday that they know that the race really begins on the trail from Maibec to Allagash.
At this point, Daugereau, is in the lead. She completed the first leg of the trip in 08:58:34 and the second leg in 06:27:58. Daugereau has a wealth of racing experience, including coming in 64th at the Ididarod in 2008. She has won six “Best Kept Team” awards at various races and has won two sportsmanship awards. She is 30 years old. If she holds on to the lead, she would be the first-ever female winner of the Can Am 250.
Right on her heels in Mario Racine of Saint-Cecile-De-Milton, Quebec, Canada.
With heavy snow falling amidst a cacophony of cheers and applause, 63 mushers took off from the center of town Saturday morning to kick off the
The annual event includes three races with a separate purse for each. The longest is the Irving Woodlands Can Am 250, and the winner gets $29,000. The winner of the Willard Jalbert Jr. Can Am 60 gets $7,000. The winner of the Pepsi Bottling Can Am 30 takes home $4,000.
Mushers from as far away as Scotland and South Africa flocked to the community and thousands of people lined Main Street to cheer them on when the Willard Jalbert Jr. Can Am 60 began. Mushers also took part in the Pepsi Bottling Can Am 30.
Anny Malo of St. Zenon, Quebec, won the 30-mile race in 2:59:40,
besting second-place finisher Rico Portalatin of Westhampton, Mass., who finished in 03:09:44. Amy Delano of Orono was third with a time of 03:23:17.
In the 60-mile race, Marco Rivest of St. Zenon, Quebec, crossed the finish line before Seppe Maes of South River, Ontario. Rivest finished the route in 06:43:44, while Maes completed it in 07:07:11. Rene Marchildon of South River, Ontario finished third in 7:09:00.
The Irving Woodlands Can Am 250 got under way shortly after 10 a.m. It took racers an average of 8 hours to finish the first leg and six hours to finish the second.
All three races began on Main Street near Key Bank and ran about a mile through town before turning onto the trail into the north Maine woods.
It was a bittersweet moment for several racers making their final appearance in the Can Am. John Kaleta of Eagle Lake was the very first musher to head out on the trail for the 250-mile race 20 years ago. After he finishes the 30-mile race, he will retire his sled and dogs for good. Larry Murphy of Fort Kent, who has competed in the race for 12 years, also will retire after finishing the 250-mile race.
Throughout Fort Kent, businesses hung signs to laud the mushers and other visitors and groups offered hot chocolate and other goods. Several politicians, including Rep. Mike Michaud, D-Maine, attended the event, as did candidates running for office.
Mushers described the trail as difficult on Saturday afternoon. The region received nearly 20 inches of snow last week, but temperatures never got low enough to harden it. The dogs were sinking into the snow as they ran.
Denis Tremblay of St Michel des Saints, Quebec, was competing in the 250-mile race. He said that Canada didn’t experience the early lack of snow that Mainers saw.
“I had a good experience with training,” he said on Saturday. “The snow around my home was very deep. I was able to begin training in snow in early December.”
Tremblay said that his main race strategy was to finish.
“I trained hard and I have a good team,” Tremblay said. “They are in good shape. I have a good feeling about this race.”
Several out-of-state visitors were seeing Fort Kent for the first time.
Jamie Carmichael, 13, of New Hampshire, decided to have his grandmother, who lives in Madawaska, drive him to see his first race.
“I read about it in a newspaper article and I wanted to see it in person,” he said. “Plus, my grandparents have always talked about it.”
Chris St. Stevens of Massachusetts was taking a snowmobile vacation in Maine and heard about the Can Am when he saw a poster in the window of a Fort Kent business.
“I love mushing, even though its a sport I don’t take part in,” he said on Saturday afternoon. “But I just love how excited these dogs are to take off and just rip down the trail like they are the ones who are going to spend that prize money. Its amazing.”
Check out the BDN for additional race information throughout the weekend.