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The 30th Annual Can-Am Crown International Sled Dog Races kick off in Fort Kent

The weekend-long event draws in mushers from New England, Canada, and beyond.

FORT KENT, Maine — Dozens of mushers and hundreds of dogs are ready to get to work this weekend at the Can-Am Crown International Sled Dog Races in Fort Kent.

There are three races mushers could choose from: the Pepsi/Native Dog Food Can-Am 30, the Willard Jalbert Jr. Can-Am 100, and the Irving Woodlands Can-Am Crown 250. Each number represents the number of miles the courses are. Each race is also limited to up to 30 participants.

The 250-mile race is a qualifier for the Iditarod and the Yukon Quest in Alaska. 

Nick Vigilante, a musher from Minnesota, said he has a team of veteran dogs but he's new to the Can-Am race in Maine this year. 

"A lot, a lot goes into it," Vigilante said.

Vigilante is competing in the 250-mile race. The race started just after 10 a.m. Saturday morning. Teams are expected to cross the finish line early Monday morning. 

Remy Leduc and Katherine Langlais, a couple from Glenwood, New Brunswick, are also competing in the 250-mile race. They said they've been competing in this race for more than a decade. 

"You feel like home, it's just like a big family, so it's something you don't want to miss," Langlais said. 

Most competitors seemed to agree that one of the biggest obstacles during the race is speed control. 

"That's really the main challenge, not to go too fast, and not to go too slow," Langlais said. 

"First half of the race is just setting yourself up to finish well," Vigilante said.

Vigilante added the most important part is knowing your dogs. His lead dogs in this race are Elm and Donald, veterans of the team who keep a steady pace. There are also a couple of younger pups in the mix. 

"I've got two puppies, they go in the back of the team somewhere, they're just stupid energy at this point," Vigilante said.

But, it's true when they say every dog has its day because that energy eventually gets put to good use. 

"Later in the race when I want some speed, one of those puppies, Daisy, is going to go up in front. She's an unguided missile. Hopefully, Elm or someone can direct her in the right direction," Vigilante said.

While Langlais is competing with the best dogs in their kennel, Leduc has a team of rookies and soon-to-be retirees.

Each of them said they have different goals heading into the race. 

Leduc called his ride an emotional farewell tour, having one last ride with some of his vets. 

"Just one last race, it's gonna be nice," he said. 

But as for his partner, "We're not here to lose ... she's not here to lose," Leduc added.

"I never wanna put pressure on myself or my dogs, so I always hope to do well and we'll see where that takes us," Langlais said. 

To watch live trackers of the 250-mile race competitors, click here

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