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The chequered flag stopped waving an hour ago but in a grassy parking lot in Tampa a crowd was still growing, Coors Light still flowing and commemorative t-shirts were still being passed out and pulled over heads. Aside from one subtle clue, it could have easily been mistaken for a championship celebration: the person responsible for the party — the reason for the gathering — was struggling to have a good time. Chad Reed just wanted to go home.

It was 10:45 p.m. on Saturday, February 24 and three-dozen people were gathered around Reed’s Team CR22 truck as his four crew members packed up, working around the revellers. Children played, running with the elated enthusiasm one possesses when fighting the urge to fall asleep. Selfie-seeking spectators loitered with their screens aglow, ready for the chance to grab a moment with Reed. He obliged every request.

Wearing street clothes — dark work shorts, a navy blue t-shirt and team hat — his smiles revealed both gratefulness and grimace. For a professional motorcycle racer, a two-time Monster Energy Supercross Champion competing in his seventeenth consecutive season in the series, the 2018 Tampa race wasn’t a good night. He was nineteenth in seeding, transferred through the last-chance qualifier and didn’t finish the main event because of an electrical problem. After his bike cut out for the third time, he pulled into the mechanics' area and handed the motorcycle to Mike Gosselaar. Instead of heading back to his truck in warranted frustration, Reed stood in the dirt and watched the rest of the race.

Maybe he wanted to study the lead riders who, in better circumstances, he believes he can still beat; maybe it was just because he loves motorsports and wanted to watch the battle between Eli Tomac and Marvin Musquin; maybe he wanted to spend a few more moments absorbing the one thing about this night that actually was an accomplishment. Competing an hour away from his adopted hometown of Dade City, FL, in front of 42,411 spectators, Reed became the new ironman of supercross by starting premier class main event number 228, surpassing a record Mike LaRocco had owned for 12 years.

After winning the last-chance qualifier he gave the crowd a nac nac over the finish line and was directed toward the podium, where the event announcer whipped up the crowd in recognition of Reed’s long — and continuing — career. After 90 seconds, the moment was over. He went from genuine joy and thankfulness right back to preparing for the one record he truly has his heart set on: oldest supercross winner, which is 33 years, 11 months. Reed turned 36 on March 15.

The post-race party was a chance for Reed’s fans, friends and family to observe a rare achievement, put life on pause and just appreciate what a great ride it has been, even if it was up, down and sideways at times. “That’s what 228 meant to me,” said Chad’s wife, Ellie, from her dining room table less than 12 hours after the party died down. “You reflect on how much you’ve actually done but you’re in the zone and [sometimes] you forget to stop and look up and go, ‘Hey, what did we do?’ And that’s because [looking at Chad] you’re so head down, ass up, go, go, go. Nothing is enough for you. But he’s always been that way.”

When Reed showed up in Anaheim on January 6 for the opening round of 2018, he was still hobbling from the two fractures he suffered in October to the talus bone in his right ankle. Medically speaking, he really had no business racing a motorcycle. The talus sits below the tibia and fibula and forms the lower part of the ankle joint. It bears the entire weight of the body and, for Reed, that body was nearly 20 pounds (approx. 9kg) over his preferred racing weight of 170 (approx. 77kg) when he started the season.

Plus, he could count on one hand the number of hours he’d spent on a motorcycle since May 6. And now he was riding a new brand — a Husqvarna FC 450 he bought with his own money. Team CR22 isn’t the second coming of

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