The top three mushers came in within 10 minutes of each other Monday morning in the Can-Am Crown International Dog Sled Races 250-mile race. They were (from left), Erin Altemus in third, Wade Marrs in second and Denis Tremblay was first. Credit: Emily Jerkins / St. John Valley Times

FORT KENT, Maine — The first mushers in the 2022 Can-Am Crown 250 ran into the finish at Lonesome Pines in Fort Kent on the heels of one another at the break of dawn Monday morning.

First to cross the finish line was Denis Tremblay wearing bib No. 3 at 5:45:12 a.m. with a total trail time of 25:51:12. He was followed closely by Wade Marrs wearing bib 9 at 5:46:26 a.m. with a trail time of 25:52:26. Erin Altemus came in third wearing bib 14 at 5:50:02 a.m. with a trail time of 25:56:02.

The Can-Am Crown International Sled Dog Races returned to northern Aroostook County this weekend after a one-year hiatus caused by fears last year of spreading COVID-19. The three timed races — the 100-mile race, the Pepsi/Native Dog Food Can-Am 30-mile and Irving Woodlands Can-Am Crown 250 — started from Main Street in Fort Kent Saturday morning and ended at various times throughout the weekend.

The crowd at the start of this year’s races was one of the largest, if not the largest, the event has seen to date, according to Can-Am planning president Dennis Cyr. He did not have specific numbers available Monday morning.

Tremblay won the Can-Am 250 in 2020 before the race’s hiatus. Though he said he has competed in the Can-Am multiple times before, this race marks Tremblay’s second win. 

“I feel very happy but very tired,” Tremblay said. “The race was very hard this year. The rain started at Syl-Ver camp. The problem was the icy rain. Rain is not too bad, but the icy rain is pretty bad. This year was a special win because I didn’t train the same. I’m very happy I won this year. Every year we have good competition but this year it was a bit more and I just proved my training was okay.” 

Marrs, who usually competes in Alaska, spent his time this year instead competing in three other races in northern Wisconsin. He placed 11th in the shortest of those races, and second in the other two. This was his first time racing in the Can-Am 250 and marked his third second place win of the year. 

“I’m going to have to try a little harder,” Marrs said. “I mushed a 5-mile run when I first got here — that was just about my only time mushing in Maine.” 

Marrs said he plans to return to Fort Kent to claim the Crown title. 

Altemus said Marrs had passed her about 15 miles after the checkpoint in Allagash. She kept spotting his headlamp about half a mile ahead of her on the trail, but she just couldn’t catch up to him, she said. Altemus and her dogs were ready for a good rest after they reached the finish line of what she described as one of the more challenging races in which she and her team have competed. 

“It’s a fun race to do,” Altemus said. “Just the challenge of the race is that it’s pretty much unsupported as far as other races that we do. The handlers drive to the checkpoints and help you with the dog care, but in this race, you’re kind of on your own for all of that so it’s both a challenge and part of the fun with it too. You get all that one-on-one time with your dogs and I enjoy the challenge.” 

Andre Longchamps, who placed second in 2019 and third in 2020, came to the finish line in fourth place at 6:19:26 a.m. with a total trail time of 26:25:26. 

Only two mushers, Barry Dana and Katherine Langlais, have pulled out of the race so far without finishing it. 

Langlais, who placed third in 2019 and second in 2020, decided to scratch just shy of halfway through the race when she noticed her team was slowing down. She attributed it to having run in so many other races this year, according to Can-Am’s chief veterinarian Jen Mirecki.

As of 10 a.m., there were still five mushers on the trail. A total of 18 mushers registered in the Can-Am Crown 250 but only 16 competed.