Dry conditions turned the 29th Chequamegon Fat Tire Festival into a fast-paced chase through dust, and Brian Matter once-again left a field of 1,800 in his.
On a sunny, breezy Saturday, the Team GEARGRINDER rider from Sheboygan won his fourth Fat Tire 40 and solidified his position as the most dominant racer in the event’s nearly three decades. Matter won for a third-consecutive year, became the only rider to win four overall, and broke his own course record.
His 2:00:59 was more than a minute better than his winning time in 2010.
Matter beat back challenges from a strong group of pro riders, including Tour de France veteran Christian Vande Velde, who just last month claimed second in the inaugural US. Pro Cycling Challenge.
Vande Velde pressured the lead group of seven over the Birkie Hills, then broke free with seven miles to the finish at the Telemark Resort. A flat tire ruined his chances to join Greg LeMond and Marty Jemison among those who have turned ProTour success into victory in the Chequamegon.
With three riders left in contention, Matter easily won the sprint over Michael Olhesier (Juwi Solar) and a cramping Jason McCartney Jason McCartney (Team RadioShack), who crossed the line 20 seconds back.
The region’s dominant mountain bike racer won his first Fat Tire 40 in 2004.
Carrying on a day of repeats, 2008 champion Lea Davison (Specialized) negotiated the course’s only significant mud puddle to pull away from Jenna Rinehart and reach the finish area on her own.
According to the Vermont rider, the mud was over her hubs but somehow she made it through upright. Rinehart didn’t fare as well. She bobbled, stopped and had to put her foot down in the muck.
She never saw Davison again, and finished nearly four minutes in arrears.
Rebecca Sauber (Trek 29er) nipped Diana McFadden (Trek Co-op) for third.
Jordan Cullen, of Hudson, destroyed the men’s Short & Fat field, finishing in 48:41.6. He topped Ian Haupt of Whitefish Bay, Wis. by almost four minutes. Nathan Labecki of Milwaukee was third.
Haupt and Labecki are likely successors to Matter as future Fat Tire 40 winners.
The women’s Short & Fat race was a close one as Anna Ganju bested Terra James by six seconds. Ganju finished in 58:07.1. Jeanne Fleck was third.
Brain and Kim Eppen (Mercy/Specialized) continued to dominate the Chequamegon 40 tandem race. The Iowa City, Iowa couple finished in 2:08:05.1, good for thirteenth overall.