FORT KENT — With cheering fans and barking dogs providing the soundtrack, more than 20 dog sled teams took off from downtown Fort Kent today for the 250-mile Can-Am Crown, a grueling endurance race that takes mushers across the wilderness of northern Aroostook County.

Race Director Beurmond Banville said trails are in great shape, and could lead to fast race.

The field includes four-time winner Martin Massicotte of St. Tite, Quebec, and two-time champion Bruce Langmaid of Blackstock, Ontario. Three-time winner Matt Carstens of New Hampshire, who has won back-to-back races in 2009 and 2010, is sitting out this year.

Massicotte will be aiming for a fifth win, putting him ahead of four-time Andre Nadeau Quebec.

As always, the weather had the potential to play a role. Mushers were taking off to weather in the 30s, but warmer weather on Sunday had the potential to bring the wrong kind of precipitation –  rain showers.

Over the years, the weather has ranged from a minus-32 reading during the inaugural Cam-Am Crown won by Nadeau in 1993 to a freakish 60 degrees a year later that forced officials to end the race early. Last year, the temperature nudged toward 50 degrees.

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