FORT KENT, Maine (AP) — The musher who's won Maine's biggest dog sled race eight times aimed for another victory as more than a dozen teams departed from Fort Kent on Saturday.

Martin Massicotte, of St. Tite, Quebec, was seen as the favorite having dominated the grueling, 250-mile Irving Woodlands Can-Am Crown in the past. But several other teams hoped to be nipping at the runners of his sled during the weekend race.

The course takes mushers through the wilderness of northern Maine. The fastest will finish the sprint late Sunday or Monday.

Massicotte said the secret to his success is simple.

"I never let go until the end of the race, no matter the conditions and my position in the race," he said in French, which his wife translated for him.

Each race is different.

The temperature plummeted to minus-38 during the first Can-Am Crown. A year later, the temperature climbed to 61 degrees, and the race was cut short. This year, there will be cooler nights and warmer days with temperatures approaching 40 degrees.

Massicotte said the warmer temperatures could complicate things for mushers. He said dogs must be in good condition to handle softer snow.

The course calls for mushers to make their way to Portage Lake and then to the town of Allagash before looping back to Fort Kent by Monday morning.

Massicotte said the last portion of the race is the toughest because the teams must climb a series of mountains.

"Regardless of the team we have and the preparation we have done, we know we will have to push beyond our capacities to cross the mountains," he said.