Gauthier regains champions of Deer Chase

CALUMET – Three years ago, Tyler Gauthier conquered muddy conditions en route to victory at the Great Deer Chase. Saturday, the conditions couldn’t have been much different, but the result was the same. The 30-year-old Ishpeming native, a frequent top-five finisher in bike races throughout the region, beat 61 other competitors in the 27-mile event over dry conditions at Swedetown Trails, finishing in 1 hour, 44 minutes, 27.6 seconds.

“I needed it,” Gauthier said. “I spend a lot of time on more of a national scene, and even a regional scene, so it’s very hard to come by a win. To get one, any way you can, feels really good.”

Gauthier said he had to prove something to himself and he kept his effort “full gas,” pulling away about a quarter of a mile into the race and only looking back after establishing a sizable lead.

Second-place finisher Pete Karinen, of Painesdale, crossed the downtown finish line more than 2 minutes after the Border Grill team captain.

Gauthier wasn’t the only winner on his nine-member team, as Cooper Dendel, the team’s elite female racer, convincingly defended her title in the women’s 27-mile event. The 21-year-old Marquette native is quickly making a name for herself in local and regional bike racing, and Saturday she finished almost 6 minutes ahead of Karla Kingsley.

“It feels awesome. Winning is great always, but I had a good day today,” said Dendel, who successfully navigated some loose corners and dominated the single-track trail sections. ” There were a couple times I was in a two-wheel drift around corners, but other than that it was pretty good. I’ll be blowing dust out of my nose all night.”

Probably not as much dust as Ross Gibbs and Oskar Karinen had to blow out of theirs.

The two teens were neck and neck throughout the entire 15-mile race, with the victory decided by just a tenth of a second after a grueling sprint down Oak Street.

Gibbs edged Karinen on the photo finish with a time of 1 hour, 1 minute, 22.8 seconds – revenge after Karinen claimed second place ahead of Gibbs at this year’s Keweenaw Chain Drive. Third-place finisher Luke Schuttenhelm was only three tenths of a second behind Karinen, and 78 participants in all crossed the finish line in the 15-mile event.

“I kind of knew we were about the same speed from last time, so I figured if we just stuck together we could probably duke it out at the end,” said Gibbs, a native of downstate Boyne City after his inaugural Deer Chase.

Kathy Abbott of Atlantic Mine won the women’s 15-mile event in 1:11:23.3. Other victors during the day included Devin Racine and Ethel Karinen in the male and female 5-mile youth race, Mike Fraley and Cameron Cischke in the male 9-10 and 7-8-year-old 3-mile youth race and Bella Harju in the female 3-mile youth race. Longtime Deer Chase organizer and trail maker, and 2013 assistant race director Marc Norton and his daughter Erin completed the 15-mile race on a tandem bike.

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