Chad Reed heard the whispers and read the stories about how he was washed up as a motocross rider. As his winless streak grew, the 31-year-old Aussie began to wonder if it was indeed time to park his bike for good.
Everything changed with last weekend's win in Anaheim, Calif.
Pulling ahead late in a wild race filled with crashes and numerous lead changes, Reed won for the first time since 2012, ending a 22-race winless streak and giving him the boost of confidence he needed.
"It's just kind of proved to myself that it was all worth it going through a year of struggles and having kind of deep thoughts about is it time, is not time for retirement or anything like that," Reed said. "I just stayed true to the course and believed that I could win, and it was really kind of rewarding to know that so much hard work went into and I could still win."
Reed has been one of motocross' most decorated riders since moving to the US in 2003, winning two Supercross championships and an outdoor title in 2009. He started his own race team, TwoTwo Motorsports, in 2011 and finished second to Ryan Villopoto in a tight Supercross race, but the past two years have been a struggle.
It started with the seventh race of the 2012 Supercross season, when Reed wrecked in Dallas and tore his left ACL. He managed to return for the 2013 season, but battled injuries throughout the Supercross and outdoor seasons, including a second surgery on his knee.
Between the injuries, the winless streak and Reed's age, many began to wonder if Reed was nearing the end of his career, including him.
"As an athlete, you'd be lying if you didn't have those days where you totally didn't second-guess yourself," Reed said. "You have days where you're on top of the world and days where you second-guess yourself. That's part of the drive, part of never feeling like you've arrived, that even when you are winning you find ways of discrediting yourself to make the fire still burn."
Reed's drive helped him find the podium in Anaheim.
Though he didn't get the hole shot, Reed was near the front until a near collision with Ryan Dungey dropped him back several seconds. Reed fought his way back toward the lead, passed Ken Roczen for second with four laps left, then overtook Stewart a lap later, setting off a roar from the crowd.
Reed held off Stewart from there for his 42nd career Supercross victory and eighth at Anaheim, matching Stewart and Jeremy McGrath for most all-time.
Reed also became the first rider to win a main event on four different brands -- Honda, Suzuki, Yamaha and Kawasaki -- and won for the first time since turning 30 in 2012.
"It was kind of nice to tick that box of still being able to win in my 30s and prove I could still do it," said Reed, who has won a main event in 10 different seasons.
And he doesn't want to stop there.
Three-time defending Supercross champion Ryan Villopoto has dominated the sport in recent years, but the field appears to be wide open this season with three different winners in three races. There's also been a different winner in each of the six heat races, six semifinal races and three last-chance qualifiers.
With his victory and a third at the first Anaheim race, Reed is tied with Dungey for third in the championship race with 57 points, three behind Roczen.
There's 14 races left, so a lot can still happen, but Reed is feeling good right now and his confidence is high, so why not set his sights on another title.
"That would be, personally, the biggest accomplishment of my career and I think it would be one of the biggest all-time in the history of the sport," he said. "On paper, it goes against you, but I'm still young at heart and while my body's a bit beat up, I took a lot of time off during the offseason to get healthy and now I feel good. I honestly believe that it's possible and that's the goal."
Reed's big win in Anaheim gives him a shot at it.