dean hall/lakeland times Minocqua native Matt Ritchie is pictured jumping over a wall of hay after suffering an electrical error in the 2015 World Championship Snowmobile Derby in Eagle River. Last weekend Ritchie crashed during a race in Ironwood, Mich., forcing him out of this year’s derby.
dean hall/lakeland times


Minocqua native Matt Ritchie is pictured jumping over a wall of hay after suffering an electrical error in the 2015 World Championship Snowmobile Derby in Eagle River. Last weekend Ritchie crashed during a race in Ironwood, Mich., forcing him out of this year’s derby.
With the 55th annual AMSOIL World Championship Snowmobile Derby in Eagle River around the corner, Minocqua native Matt Ritchie was primed to put on a show.

Ritchie entered the season as part of a new team and was racing as fast as ever. Perhaps this was the year he could make a run at winning it all.

Those dreams quickly evaporated last weekend in Michigan at the Ironwood Olympus, as Ritchie crashed at an estimated speed of 100 miles per hour, resulting in a broken shoulder. The projected time of recovery is six-to-12 weeks, which effectively ends his season before it can really get started.

"I think with it being a new year and a new team, we started off stronger than we ever have," Ritchie said. "We've won probably five heat races or so, was running fourth in Tomahawk, we started off strong in Ironwood this weekend, but when I crashed we were leading. I ended up crashing at 100 miles per hour and wrecked my shoulder."

This would have been Ritchie's sixth attempt at World Championship in Eagle River, coming off of an eighth place finish a year ago.

Ritchie felt like this could be the year he finally made a major splash in the race, but now the hometown racer won't even get the opportunity.

"This was probably the most prepared we've ever been and I was really ready to go," Ritchie said. "I think this was going to be our best chance to be in the top three on Sunday."

Ritchie is scheduled to visit an orthopedic surgeon to determine if his shoulder injury requires surgery, but he did say x-rays after the crash confirmed a break.

If he does need surgery, he would be out up to three months, which would end his season.

"Right now it's just kind of shutting it down. We are kind of teammates with Jerry Brickner (of Antigo) so we're going to help him out," Ritchie said. "We're just going it to leave it at that for right now because we had x-rays done and confirmed a break, but we just have to find out how serious and how long. There's still 10 weeks left in the season and if it's a six-week recovery we have to see if we can finish off the rest of the season or not."

Given the magnitude of the World Championship race, amplified by it taking place in his own backyard, having to miss the race is crushing for Ritchie.

"Eagle River is the biggest race of the year. It's kind of like the Daytona 500 of snowmobile racing," Ritchie said. "With it being right next to our hometown, we have a lot of friends and family and also just local supporters that are coming out to hopefully cheer us on. Now it's going to be a little different this year. I kind of feel like we let them down, but it is racing so you're going to have issues before and after the season."

If Ritchie does indeed have to miss the remainder of the season, it could provide a silver lining.

While he won't know until he actually has to watch a race from the sidelines, going down with an injury while he was at the top of his game is just motivation to come back better than ever.

"Anything like this always lights a fire under your tail to keep coming and work harder and just better yourself everyday," Ritchie said.

The World Championship Snowmobile Derby is scheduled for Jan. 18 through 21.

Nick Sabato may be reached at nick@lakelandtimes.com or via Twitter @SabatoNick.