FORT KENT – Matt Carstens of Whitefield, N.H., won the 14th annual Can-Am Crown International Sled Dog Race Monday morning arriving at the Lonesome Pine Trails at 6:01 a.m., the fourth fastest finish ever.
Carstens, 33, covered the 251-mile trail through the northern Maine woods in 29 hours, six minutes and 42 seconds, 38 minutes ahead of three-time winner Martin Massicotte, St. Tite, Quebec, who arrived at 6:48 a.m.
The 2006 running of the Irving Woodland’s 250-mile race was Carstens’ third effort at getting the crown. He placed 13th in 2005, and was fifth in the 2004 running of the Iditarod of the east.
He finished the race with nine of the 12 dogs he started the race with on Saturday morning. He took the lead in the race after leaving the Rocky Brook checkpoint early Sunday morning, and never looked back.
Some 40 fans were at the finish line when the first three finishers arrived Monday morning.
“It was great fun, a great run from Allagash,” Carstens said after completing the 44.2 miles in six hours and one minute. “It was a great run, a heart pounding ride with twists and turns.
“I didn’t dare look back, afraid I would see Martin’s [Massicotte’s] light,” he said. “The dogs were great, loping most of the way in from Allagash. It was the funnest ride of the whole race.”
The carpenter and dog handler took a quick slug from a beer handed to him at the finish line as he answered questions for timers and judges.
Carstens said the race is tough no matter what, but the trails this year were in great shape.
Carstens was only ahead of Massicotte by 38 minutes when he left Two River Lunch, the Allagash checkpoint. He was one hour and 47 minutes faster than Massicottee on the trail to Fort Kent.
Massicotte had a rough trip from Allagash. He said his dogs were tired, eating little on the trail. It slowed the final leg of his race. He ended up coming into Fort Kent just eight minutes ahead of Bruce Langmaid who was 38 minutes behind Massicotte at Allagash.
Massicotte was visibly tired after his nearly 48 hours on the trail. His dogs were also tired, stressed from the hard run compounded by the warm temperatures on Saturday and Sunday.
“It’s been a long race,” he said in French at the finish line. “My dogs are tired, not eating and they are running out of fuel.
“Good job,” Massicotte told Carstens who came to the finish line to shake hands.
Mike Ellis of Rumney, N.H., the carrier of pen-pal letters from first-graders at the Ashland Central School to first- graders at the Madawaska Elementary School, finished ninth in the race at 11:21 a.m.
It was a tough race. Eleven teams scratched starting at the Rocky Brook checkpoint, halfway through the race. For some teams it was musher problems and for others it was the dogs.
Ten of the remaining 15 teams had crossed the finish line by noon Monday. Of the remaining five teams, three were on the trail from Allagash to Fort Kent, and two were still on mandatory five-hour breaks at the Allagash checkpoint.
The two teams still in Allagash were competing for the “Red Lantern Award.” That award, an actual red lantern, is presented annually to the last musher to finish the race.
IRVING WOODLAND CAN-AM
At Fort Kent, 250 miles
1. Matt Carstens, Whitefield, N.H., 6:06 a.m.
2. Martin Massicotte, St. Tite, Quebec, 7:48 a.m.
3. Bruce Langmaind, Blackstock, Ontario, 7:56 a.m.
4. Stephane Duplisse, St. Zenon, Que., 8:33 a.m.
5. Rene Marchildon, South River, Ont., 8:55 a.m.
6. Blake Freking, Finland, Minn., 8:58 a.m.
7. Ward Wallin, Two Harbors, Minn., 9:09 a.m.
8. Nathand Schroeder, Nashwauk, Minn., 11:19 a.m.
9. Mike Ellis, Rumney, N.H., 11:21 a.m.
10. Normand Casavant, Val des Lacs, Que., 11:53 a.m.
11. Rita Wehseler, Tofte, Minn. (finish time unavailable)
12. Kevin Malikowski, Outing, Minn. (finish time unavailable)
13. Bruce Linton, Morrisville, Vt. (finish time unavailable)
Still at Allagash checkpoint:
Robert St. Onge, La Morendiere, Que.
Herve Belanger, Berry, Que.
Robert Fredette, Plantagenet, Que.
Andre Longchamps, Pont Rouge, Que.
Claude Baril, St. Zenon, Que.
Mario Racine, Ste. Cecile de Milton, Que.
Amy Dugan, Shirley, Me.
Matt Weik, Remer, Minn.
Bill Matott, Manchester, N.H.
Ron Brigham, Warwick, Mass.
Bob O’Hearn, Sandown, N.H.
Martin Charette, St. Michel des Saints, Que.
Ashley Simpson, Shirley, Maine