With the fastest time in the 30-year history of the race, Matthew Busche of Wauwatosa won the Chequamegon 40 on Saturday, an event some call the 'Boston Marathon of Mountain Biking.'
No small accomplishment that – especially since it was the first mountain bike event he's ever entered.
That's not the quite the miracle it might sound. Busche has been a professional road bike racer for three years and is a member of one of the sport's top pro teams, Radio Shack-Nissan-Trek.
"I spend about half my year in Europe," Busche said. "It was really great to get back to the Midwest, where I started racing, and see some familiar faces, old teammates.
"It was a really exciting and fun event – winning was icing on the cake, and setting a record was even better. But it was really cool just to be in that kind of environment, really grass-roots racing."
Busche, 27, finished the grueling 40 miles in an official time of 2:00:32.8, almost half a minute faster than the previous record of 2:00:59.9, set last year.
His time was nearly 19 seconds faster than the next finisher, Mike Anderson, 23, of Alpena, Mich., who won his 18-24 age group.
In winning the premier event at the Chequamegon Fat Tire Festival in Cable, Wis., Busche also had to outrace four-time Chequamegon 40 winner and last year's champion and record-setter, Brian Matter, 34, of Sheboygan, who finished third overall but won the 30-35 age group.
Busche clocked an average speed of 20.3 miles per hour over the course.
Festival director Gary Crandall said that the Chequamegon 40 is "noted as being a power course, not a very technical one. Fitness plays an important part in the race, more so than technical bike-handling."
"Matthew was one of the last riders to enter," he said.
Mountain bike courses, including the Chequamegon 40, include rough trail sections and obstacles, much different challenges than long-distance road races. But Chequamegon has more groomed stretches than most, following considerable lengths of the famed Birkebeiner Ski Trail.
Busche, who finished second this year in the Tour de Utah, entered the Chequamegon event as much for fun as for competition.
"First of all, I probably wouldn't have entered if it was really technical," Busche said, "for safety reasons. But I heard it was not all that technical, more of an aerobic race.
"That sounded good to me, a good change of pace. I talked to some people at Trek, and they were able to get me into the race."
Busche's win came in resounding fashion, said Crandall.
"There was no sprint to the finish, which is unusual for the Chequamegon 40," he said. "He pretty much rode away from everybody."
Busche won't be turning to pro mountain biking, though.
"If it was a tech race," he said, "I'd be way in the back."
The Chequamegon 40 began in 1983 with 27 riders. This year, 1,850 riders pedaled the 40 miles from Hayward to the finish at Telemark Resort in Cable.
The race included a host of other riders from Wauwatosa, including Donald Carr, 57, who placed fifth out of 119 entrants in the 55-59 age division, and Ben Senkerik, 19, who placed eighth out of 42 in the 18-24 division.
You can see all the race results on the festival website, or see the PDF included in the photo gallery, where we've highlighted Wauwatosa and other area Patch entrants.
You can follow Matthew Busche's professional racing career on his blog.