FORT KENT — Thirteen mushers have launched their annual dash across the wilderness of northern Maine.

The 250-mile Can-Am Crown kicked off Saturday in Fort Kent with mushers from Maine, Minnesota, Iowa and several Canadian provinces. The grueling course takes mushers to Portage Lake and then to the town of Allagash before looping back to Fort Kent by Monday morning.

Ten-time winner Martin Massicotte, of St. Tite, Quebec, wasn’t in the race. He’s participating in the 1,000-mile Iditarod across Alaska.

That leaves room for other top mushers including two former runners-up, Andre Longchamps of Denis Tremblay, both of Quebec. Also racing is Longchamps’ teenage son, Tristan.

Each race is different. The temperature plummeted to minus-38 during the first Can-Am Crown and then soared to 61 degrees a year later.

But the weather is cooperating this year. A winter storm on Thursday left a fresh layer of 10 inches of snow on the course and temperatures were dipping to single digits at night, ideal conditions for the dogs.

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