By: Stephanie Nitsch
Brian Matter (of team Gear Grinder) won his fourth championship title at the Chequamegon Fat Tire Festival in Hayward, Wisconsin, making him the first man to do so in the history of the event. Matter's time of 2:00:59.9 on the 40-mile track broke the previous course record by almost two full minutes (set by Matter in 2010).
"It was top notch this year," said Matter, who had pressure from pro roadies Jason McCartney (RadioShack) and Christian Vande Velde (Garmin/Cervelo) in this year's race. "The competition doesn't get much steeper."
Mid-West native Vande Velde was a crowd favorite, and held strong for most of the 40 miles as one of the top five leaders. He had a commanding breakaway at one point, crushing the competition at the Seeley Firetower, the most challenging climb of the 40-mile course. Vande Velde's lead, however, was cut short just five miles from the finish line with a flat tire and put him out of race.
Matter took the lead on the final sprint over fellow race leaders Michael Olhesier (Juwi Solar) and McCartney who rounded out the podium winners, respectively. "It took a lot of patience, smart racing and a good bike," said Matter about the course after the race. "A full suspension saved me energy. I was watching these guys bounce all over with their hardtails."
A single mud puddle on the course ultimately decided the women's division. Defending women's champion Jenna Rinehart (Specialized) established an early lead, but 2008 winner Lea Davison (Specialized) crept her way towards Rinehart as they approached Lake Helane, midway on the course. Rinehart took a bad line through the right side of a mud puddle and had to put a foot out to catch herself, while Davison cut through the center and continued pedaling to earn a large enough gap between the two for the remaining course. Davison finished in 2:17:31, with Rinehart coming in four minutes later. Rebecca Sauber (Trek 29er) brought home third place.