Ishpeming racer happy just to get to finish line

HANCOCK – Robert Riutta was just happy to get to the finish line at Portage Health after 16 miles on the Keweenaw Chain Drive course on Saturday.

Finding a fellow competitor to share that happiness took a little longer than he planned.

Riutta completed the course in 1 hour, 11 minutes, 46.9 seconds, ending up 4 1/2 minutes ahead of the field.

“I crashed the last two years, so it was nice to finish without crashing and win as well,” the Ishpeming resident said.

Both of Riutta’s wrecks in previous Chain Drives came early in the race as traffic thins out after the transition onto a trail on the west side of Hancock.

Riutta said his last contact with other riders came near where the 16-mile and 32-mile trails diverge. When he got to the finish, he had some time to consider the gap behind him.

“I kept asking people (at the finish), ‘Am I the first one?’ because I wasn’t sure if there was someone ahead of me at that split, but I didn’t think so. Yeah, I’m actually really surprised,” he said.

The next two in were Keegan Korienek of Grandville and Ross Gibbs of Boyne City, both top-10 finishers last year.

The best Keweenaw rider was Jonathan Kilpela of Atlantic Mine, in sixth about seven minutes behind Riutta.

The ladies’ finish was much closer as Kyra Jackson of Hayward, Wis., ended up just three seconds ahead of Andrea Matter of Sheboygan, Wis.

Chilly and damp conditions didn’t faze Jackson, whose sisters Keely and Kaelin came in third and fourth, respectively.

“I do better in the cold. Heat does not work so well for me, so I liked these conditions,” she said.

Jackson’s winning time was 1:25:32.8.

Matter’s husband Brian extended his winning streak to five years in the full-length race, this year contested over 32 miles.

The lead group was familiar, including Tyler Gauthier of Ishpeming – who finished third last year and won the Great Deer Chase in Calumet in August – and Pete Karinen of Painesdale, who finished fifth in the 2013 Chain Drive.

“Pretty much right away, it was me, Tyler and Pete Karinen, which we figured it would be. We neutralized a little bit, a couple guys caught on, but maybe five, six miles into the race, we started going hard,” Matter said.

Matter went on to win in 2:01:03, coming in nearly a minute ahead of Gauthier.