|By Jim Majka
FORT KENT - In a dramatic and surprising finish, Can-Am veteran musher Martin Massicotte from St- Tite, Quebec, crossed the finish line at I :31 p.m., after trailing Don Hibbs of Millinocket nearly the whole way.
It was the fourth Can-Am Crown for Massicotte. He won the Can-Am in 1998, 2002 and 2005, and now becomes the second four-time winner of the Crown.
The race ended the same as it began, in steady snow and temperatures in the 20s.
Massicotte's team took 35 hours, 32 minutes and 24 seconds to complete the 247.6-mile race.
He finished only 10 minutes ahead of his longtime friend Andre Longchamps, of Pont-Rouge Quebec.
"It was rough this time, with the steady snow, especially between the second and third legs. The trails were really tough," said a tired but relieved Massicotte.
Massicote said he could not name the most difficult day in the race. Massicotte said, while smiling, "They were h~rd every day."
Massicotte described the trails on Monday as "punchy" and very difficult for the dogs.
Massicotte was IS miles out when he took the lead from Don Hibbs, who had to stop because his dogs were too tired to continue. After passing Hibbs, he never looked back.
"This was a very difficult race," Massicotte said.
He later noted that the hard races are where he does best.
At the final checkpoint at Allagash, Massicotte was nearly an hour and half behind Hibbs.
The grueling Can-Am 250 race on Saturday morning began with 22 teams in the middle of a major snowstorm which dumped 14 inches of snow on the region.
Larry Murphy of Fort Kent was a local favorite, but he had to drop out in Portage.
By late Monday, 10 teams had crossed the finish line. Three were still on the trail Tuesday. Nine teams never made it.
The top five Can Am 250 finishers were Martin Massicotte and Andre Longchamps, both from Quebec, Matt Carstens of New Hampshire, Don Hibbs of Millinocket, and Mario Racine from Quebec.
The top five Can-Am 60 finishers were Claude Baril from St-Zenon, Quebec, Jim Wellert from Wadsworth, Ohio, Todd Sullivan from Lanark, Ontario, Eric Chagnon from Parent, Quebec, and Paul Boudreau from L'Assomption, Quebec.
The top five Can-Am 30 finishers were Genevieve Telmosse from Val-Des-Lacs, Quebec, Diane Marquis from St-Hugues, Quebec, Claudette Blouin also from StHugues, Quebec, first time musher Rico Portalatin from Westhampton, Massachusetts, and Francois Maurice from St. Donat, Quebec.