Monday, June 27, 2011

RAAM 2011 FINAL OFFICIAL FINISHER: Geoff Brunner



RAAM 2011 FINAL OFFICIAL FINISHER: Geoff Brunner
“Never underestimate the value of a good tailwind!’
Vic Armijo / City Dock, Annapolis, Maryland
June 27, 2011
To be an official finisher RAAM Racers have exactly 12 days to cover the distance from Oceanside, California to Annapolis, Maryland. Many riders over the years have encountered delays and difficulties along the way, causing them to come in beyond the cut-off and not be eligible for an official finish that puts them in the record book and entitles them to a finisher’s medal.
Geoff Brunner came in today right on the cut-off. One more minute and he’d forever regret that time in Kansas when he spent some extra time brushing his teeth, or that red light that he got behind in Ohio “If only I’d pedaled a little harder when it was yellow!” But none of that matters now. He made it.
While the official finish line is a few miles back, there’s a ceremonial finish at City Dock where the spectators gather and the awards are presented. Brunner’s young son sat waiting for him there, seated next to Geoff’s grandmother. Geoff stopped short of the line and called his son to join him—together they walked across the line. Amid the cheering of congratulations and the marveling at his making it so close, Geoff quipped, “Never underestimate the value of a good tailwind!’ Indeed Geoff. In RAAM as in life the most valued results are sometimes the ones that you fought for and almost didn’t get. And sometimes just a little bit of extra help is appreciated. Congratulations!



DEX-TOOKE: “No more unfinished business!”

3RD PLACE SOLO MEN AGE 60+

Vic Armijo / City Dock, Annapolis, Maryland

June 27, 2011 12:00 Noon, EDT

Sixty-one year old Texan Dex Tooke had a score to settle with America. Last year he tried to cross it, made a courageous effort, but the 3,000 mile width got the better of him and he pulled out of the 2010 Race Across America, in Cumberland, Maryland, just over 200 miles from the finish. But today he made it, crossing the finish line today with a time of 12 days, 19 hours and 46 minutes, averaging 9.71mph in his pedal-powered journey from Oceanside, California to Annapolis, Maryland.

He was met at the finish by his crew of “Dexans,” made up of friends, family and even some members of the Spinning classes that he teaches. That’s right, along with his normal job in inside sales at Marathon Heaters, this energy dynamo helps other with their fitness at a local fitness gym where he’s been a popular instructor for years, “I enjoy it, it's a hoot,” he said.

But Dex wasn’t always a healthy and vibrant senior citizen. “When I was 28 years old I was a smoker and I was out of shape,” he related, “I went out to a local track in my home town, I was going to run a mile around the track and I couldn't make it one time around. I had to walk the straight-aways and run the curves. That's when I decided that it was time for a life change. It's a matter of life-style and it's a matter of choice."

Dex addressed the crowd at the awards stage with a few brief, but heartfelt sentiments, “In 2010 I had my own challenges I wanted to accomplish. Now I realize that isn’t about the 3,000 miles and it isn’t about the challenge. It’s about hope and courage for everyone—even if they don’t ride a bicycle. I was riding this year not just for me, but for a whole lot of other people. And that made my journey across America just a little bit easier.”

Throughout this 30th annual Race Across America, whenever fans, officials and other racers have discussed how the riders were doing in the ongoing race, the conversation almost always got around to Dex and comments of “How’s he doing?” and “I’m rooting for him.” Thank you Dex! You’ve really have succeeded in more than just a long bike ride—you really have reached and inspired a multitude of people.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

ALBERTO BLANCO: 4th Place & Rookie of the Year RAAM 2011

Vic Armijo / City Dock, Annapolis, Maryland

June 25, 2011 11:53am EDT




Alberto Blanco (USA) took fourth in this 30th Race Across America, and was honored as RAAM Rookie of the Year, but if RAAM had a “Human Drama Award,” Blanco surely would have won that hands down too. For despite developing a severe case of “Shermer’s Neck” (the complete shutdown of fatigued neck muscles) in Colorado, he continued to hold onto his fourth place position that he’d held since California and keeping pace against seasoned RAAM veterans Gerhard Gulewicz (Austria) and Marko Baloh. Even more amazing is that as recently as one day before the finish he had pushed past both and briefly held second place before being passed by Mark Pattinson (USA) and being re-passed by Baloh.

Blanco arrived at the finish line this morning at 1:00am EDT in a time of 9 days, 9 hours, 10 minutes, averaging 13.28 mph for the total distance. Two factors allowed Blanco to earn such an impressive result despite the condition of his neck; one was the brace cobbled together by his crew, using a back-back frame, a support fashioned from their roof rack’s bicycle wheel holder, and copious amounts of duct tape. The other was his sheer resolve to continue not just riding, but racing, “I can’t even tell you! The guy’s determination is just amazing,” his crew chief, Dr. Robert Hernandez said, “Not only is he a very talented bike rider, but he’s got a heart of gold. He’s very courageous and I’m very happy and proud.”

Blanco was equally as proud of his crew, “The crew, they did it. We’re only six people and everybody was a rookie except one. For them to help me across the country—and in pretty good shape—I had the best crew in the whole race. That’s without a doubt. I rode the bike and they did everything else.”

On hand at the finish was his wife, Veronica Maldonado, a past RAAM winner, having been on a 4-person mixed team back in’97. Asked how it was for her to see the race reports and know that her beloved was suffering so, “Horrible!” she said, “The pictures were so hard to look at. But I kept in touch and Robert his crew chief was assuring me that he was okay and riding well and that meant a lot. I took a redeye flight from California on Friday and as I was boarding the plane he was in second. It was a fight to the end. It was difficult. But he’s here. What a tight race. Unbelievable. I thought it would be a sprint finish or something! It was that close at that time.”

Alberto’s finish was unique. He arrived at the line, still in his brace and wearing a pair of pink Mickey Mouse ears on his helmet. He stopped beneath the banner and was greeted by some of his crew, who proceeded to take off layer upon layer of duct tape that was used to attach his head and helmet to the brace. He was obviously happy to be at the finish, but the fatigue of the ride had obviously taken it’s toll—the man was sunburned, exhausted and judging by his dazed stare, he was obviously ready for some serious R&R. On the awards stage, RAAM Race Director George Thomas said joked about Blanco’s physical appearance, “By that look of joy on your face tells me that you’re coming back next year.” Blanco response? “I’m coming back for sure!”


THE CRUELEST PART OF RAAM

Vic Armijo / Best Western Hotel, Annapolis, Maryland

June 25, 2011 10:02am EDT

For the racers RAAM is a grueling and exhausting experience of battling the elements and the course to get to the finish line. For the crews RAAM is a grueling and exhausing experience of battling the elements, and the course, the dying power inverters, the always melting ice in the ice chest, the quest for cell service, the inevitable “differences of opinion” with other crew members, etc, etc, in what can seem like an endless trudge to get to the finish line. And then the work begins...

This morning we spotted a number of zombie-like people sporting dark sunken eyes and fresh sunburns, as they removed all the various bits o’ RAAM equipment from rental vans and RVs and going about the task of sorting it all and packing it up.

Overheard were some saying things like “Next year we’ll...” While others were saying, “I can’t beleive you talked me into this. You people are nuts!”

ITALY’S PAOLOS ASTE TAKES 7TH PLACE

Vic Armijo / City Dock, Annapolis, Maryland
June 25, 2011, 2:00pm EDT

Italy’s Paolo Aste finished at 12:52pm EDT today in a time of 9 days, 21 hours and 19 minutes. His average speed from Oceanside, California to Annapolis, Maryland was 12.6 mph. Paolos English is practically non-existent, so a crew member translated for his post-race interview with Race Director George Thomas, “He was very hot in the beginning. I had good feelings in the beginning, especially the first two days. Overall I’m very happy,” his crew member said. He concluded by saying, “He want to compliment the RAAM people—it was very well organized. He saw beautiful places He is very tired and wants to sleep, but first he wants to eat! Good idea Paolos.

Paolos
grande gara! RAAM vi ringrazia per competere. Congratulazioni. Vedremo che nel 2012?

I love Raam!

I am standing somewhere on the RAAM route. As you can see I am enjoying being here with Race Across America. There is nothing else like it!

It is a really fun time to cheer the riders and follow them all and get their stories to the fans!

Thanks so much for following my posts. See you in Annapolis!

Andre the driver.

Media 1 hard at work on the road!

Today the Media 1 crew is in Annapolis, Maryland.

Before we arrived here this shot was taken by our infamous photo guy Vic Armijo en route!

I hope you like it. I am hard at work as you see helping Andrew who is our video journalist.

You can view photos and video from Media 1 here on the Race Across America website.

See you in Annapolis!

Andre the Driver

Eating on the road!


Hello again RAAM fans!

I am traveling with Race Across America getting as much out of "fast food" as I can.

This wonderful apple was lost in our ice chest for some time but not today!

Our Media 1 crew makes frequent stops at McDonald's, but I try to avoid eating this type of fast food.

Check in soon for more from Andre the Driver.

Friday, June 24, 2011

MARK PATTINSON TAKES SECOND IN RAAM 2011


Vic Armijo / City Dock, Annapolis, Maryland

June 24, 2011. 11:11pm EDT


Few would have predicted that Mark Pattinson (USA) would score second place in this 30th Race Across America. True, he’s taken second in his rookie RAAM back in 2007. But he also DNFed with “Shermer’s Neck” last year. And with the heavy hitters in this year’s field, some felt that his “Tortoise” approach to RAAM would be defeated by the faster, more aggressive “Hares.” Yet, he indeed did take the runner up spot behind winner Christoph Strasser, arriving in Annapolis this afternoon at 4:40pm EDT, to post a time of 9 days and 41 minutes, with an overall average of 13.8mph. His daughter Olivia greeted him at the finish line, saying, "Daddy's home!' "That right," he said as he hoisted her up, "Daddy's home."

Mark Pattinson had this assessment of his race, “It was as good a race as I can run. I’m not the fastest guy, but we ran the best race we had. We made a plan and we stuck to it.”

That plan was for Pattinson to keep a steady, sustainable pace that he knew he could maintain, “I set my target for nine days at my pace,” he said. He knew better than to challenge those who go out from the start with a blazing pace, “Well I don’t have that blazing pace to begin with. So that’s not really an option!” he said with a laugh. “I knew that it’s always the situation that a guy gets the lead and defends it and there’s nothing I can do about that. I’m not fast enough. and halfway through the race I could see from watching their times that they weren’t sleeping. They were trying to break each other and were just knocking each other out.”

Meanwhile Pattinson’s maintained his kinder gentler pace, “The longer it went the better I felt,” he said, “Every night I made sure I recovered more, I rode harder and faster in the day, slept longer in the evening, and waited and waited and in the last 600 miles I took off like it was just another race.” And it worked. He moved up from fifth to second in the final 24 hours of RAAM 2011. Throughout the race he had been consistently sleeping three hours a night. Allowing him enough reserve to drop it down to just an hour, further increasing his tactical advantage to his sleepy and fatigued rivals.

In my years on the RAAM media crew I’ve conducted dozens of post-race interviews. Few finishers have been as fresh and energetic as Pattinson was this afternoon. He was talkative and cheerful. Once he got a shower, shave and change he looked like a typical Annapolis tourist, about to go out for a nice dinner with some friends—good friends, such as the people who have helped him across the country these past nine days, And that’s exactly what he was going to do, “We’re in Annapolis, so I guess a nice sea food dinner is in order. We had great fun,” he said, “My crew is fantastic. You know everyone says that, but mine really is.”

STRASSER WINS RAAM 2011, 3RD FASTEST SPEED EVER


Vic Armijo / City Dock, Annapolis, Maryland
June 24, 2011 11:02am EDT

That this 30th Annual Race Across America would be memorable was evident right from the start, just nine days ago. The start list for RAAM 2011 boasted the biggest field of solo racers ever. The field was especially strong, with two previous second place riders and several more riders with top ten finishes. Yet not a single past winner was among the June 15 starters. It was a foregone conclusion that the first rider to reach Annapolis, Maryland would be earning his first win. Most knowledgeable RAAM fans predicted that the favorites were the two most experienced racers, Gerhard Gulewicz (Austrian) and Marko Baloh (Slovenia). While many predicted a strong ride from Christophe Strasser (Austria), with a RAAM record of 1 DNF in 1 start, few considered him a threat to win.

Strasser, however, came to the USA to settle a score, “Two years ago I was really fast in the beginning,” he said a few days ago in Oceanside, “I had a good start and a good first three days. Then in Colorado entering the Rocky Mountains I got problems with my lungs. I got pneumonia and had to quit the race. My oxygen intake was very low and I spent four days in the hospital in intensive care. Now I am back to get to the finish. I am very focused and very motivated.”

Strasser established his intentions early. While it was Steven Perezluha (USA) the youngest rider in the race who made to the first time station, Strasser was mere minutes behind in 4th. Strasser worked his way into 1st by second time station in Borrego Springs. Meanwhile Marko Baloh—one of those riders with a pair of RAAM 2nd place finishes—trailed Strasser as the race entered Arizona. Baloh closed to within minutes of Strasser before Parker, Arizona, and eventually passed Strasser and was first to reach Flagstaff. Baloh put 20 minutes between he and Strasser s by Tuba City. As the two approached picturesque Monument Valley, neither was there for the view (it was dark by then anyway), these two were racing! They sped through Kayenta separated by mere feet, each being credited with the same arrival time, although Baloh was in front, albeit by a scant few feet. Forty-four miles later, it was Strasser who arrived first at Mexican Hat, Utah, with Baloh rolling in six minutes later. It was here, a day and a half into the race, and with 723 miles behind him, that Baloh took his first sleep break. It would be the last time that he or any other RAAM Solo racer would see Strasser; the Austrian would hold his lead until the end.

The 29 year old finished his ride this morning just a few minutes after midnight. His overall time of 8 days, 8 hours and 6 minutes calculates to an overall speed average of 14.94mph, the 3rd fastest average speed ever. The puts him among the RAAM elite. The top three fastest overall stands as follows. 1. Pete Penseyres 15.4mph 1986, 2. Daniel Wyss 15.28mph, 2009. 3. Christoph Strasser 14.94mph,

Throughout his race winning ride, Strasser’s speed average had him in position to break Penseyres’ long-standing record; that is, until the Appalachians. By the time Strasser put the last of those climbs behind him, his average had fallen below the crucial number. “We knew that it was very close,” he said this morning, “My crew chief did some calculations about the record, but then we did not want to stress ourselves in the finish.”

Smart. Everything about this guy impresses; his speed, his professional yet engaging manner, his physical and mental, are all marks of a champion. But perhaps most impressive is his racing maturity. To back off and save himself for another day in what is likely to be a long and successful career. And as we saw by his smiles and engaging personality throughout the race, he knows that for him, enjoying the ride is key to staying motivated, “When you see the pictures on our home page you will see that we had a lot of fun,” he said this morning at the finish, “But still we can be a hundred percent professional and serious about getting the job done. It is an honor to be here and a rider should push as much as possible.”

Thursday, June 23, 2011

THE BATTLE FOR 2ND THROUGH 5th: “The more things change, the more things stay the same.”


Vic Armijo / Mt. Airy, Maryland

June 23, 2011

“Wait, isn’t this the RAAM Leaderboard from a couple of days ago?” I thought this afternoon when I took a peek at current results. In six years of being on the road with RAAM I’ve never seen such a tight race this late in the game. The time separations look more like something we see in the first day or two. Right now second place is held by Marko Baloh (Slovenia), (left) just as it was way back in Utah, and just as it remained until yesterday when first Alberto Blanco (USA) and Gerhard Gulewicz (Austria) both got by Baloh. And by last night, Blanco had moved past Gulewicz to take over 2nd place. But, here we are less than 24 hours later and the positions are back to where they had been for most of the mid-west. The full stats as of 6:45pm EDT are as follows:

1st Christoph Strasser 2898.30 miles 8 days 1 hour 13
minutes, Average Speed
15 mph.

2nd. Marko Baloh S 2674.80 miles 7 days 22 hours 32 minutes, Average Speed 14.04mph

3rd Gerhard Gulewicz 2674.80 miles 7 days 22 hours 58 minutes 14.01mph 4th

4th Alberto Blanco-TeamRAPD S 2674.80 miles 7 days 23 hours 45 minutes 13.95mph


5th Mark Pattinson 2674.80 miles 8 days 0 hours 12 minutes 13.92mph

Christoph Strasser has of course held the lead since passing Marko Baloh in Monument Valley, 36 hours into RAAM. But as you can see we have quite an argument going on behind Strasser, with the 2nd through 4th separated by just over an hour, with 5th place Mark Pattinson gaining ground, just two hours behind Baloh. With such close racing it is especially fortunate that none of these riders have been assessed a penalty (Good job crews!), assuring that RAAM 2011 results will be decided on the road, and not in the penalty box at Mt. Airy. How frustrating that would be, to score a top finish in RAAM only to be relegated back a position due to a rules infraction. Penalties are routinely assessed for such thing as having a support vehicle being parked too close to the shoulder line, having the crew forget to call race headquarters when required, or any other lapse in following the many rules put in place to keep RAAM safe and fair.

CHRISTOPH STRASSER: "When I am on the bike I just feel happy!"


Vic Armijo / Headed toward Mt. Airy, Maryland

June 23, 2011 4:45pm EDT

The crew of the Mighty RAAM Media 1 van was truly impressed when we caught up with solo male leader Christoph Strasser yesterday morning. We found him talking on the phone with his girlfriend Sabine back in Austria. He was smiling, jovial, and aside from being sunburned and having stubble on his chin, he looked about as fresh as he did eight days ago in Oceanside, California.

For the rest of the day and into the wee hours of this morning, we shot photos and videos and interviewed Strasser in repeated drive-bys. Again we were impressed with the 29 year old; he climbed some of the steepest grades at nearly 10 mph while managing to keep smiling as he took on what many have called the toughest miles of RAAM. Most riders dread the Appalachians; where steep grades are lined up one after another, some with elevation gains of as much as 1000’, followed by a short descent and yet another climb with no time for recovery from the previous. 5-time RAAM winner Jure Robic often said that he looked forward to the Appalachians. For the late champion, who’s strength was often most evident in the waning mile of RAAM, these torturous inclines were an opportunity to reinforce his position, or drop those who dared chase. Yesterday, before reaching these legendary climbs, we asked Strasser—a rider who Robic touted to be a future contender—how he expected to do in the Appalachians. “I don’t know, I’ve never been this far. We shall see.

The Media 1 crew left Strasser at 1:00am this morning, (for unlike him we need some sleep) and found him again at daybreak. So how was Strasser’s first encounter with the Appalachians? “Much better than I had expected,” he said, “I was prepared for that in my head. You know, in Austria and generally in Europe, we are used to such mountains which are very steep. The Rocky Mountains (for instance), they are very easy for us that are from Europe. That is what we know from back home.”

Still, overnight those relentless Appalachian climbs had taken a big chunk out of Strasser’s overall speed average. This morning his overall had dropped to 15.11mph, just short of Pete Penseyres’ 15.4mph record. But with the tough climbing behind him and plenty of level roads ahead, there’s a very real chance that Strasser can bring that average back up, or at least finish at better than 15mph, something accomplished only by Penseyres and by Danny Wyss in 2009 (15.28mph).

To be this close to joining the ranks of such luminaries is the result of seeing to every detail of his race, from having the right equipment, to having an experienced and efficient crew; and as we’ve seen in recent days when Strasser stood and climbed when others might sit, and when he shifted up and pedaled when others might coast, “I tried to make very good speed on all of the sections even when I was already very far in the lead,” he said this morning, “Just because it’s RAAM. When you do RAAM you should give 100 per cent every time. This is the very most important race.”

That important race will soon be over for Strasser, who we just saw Strasser ride through historic Gettysburg on his way to time station #51 in Hanover, PA., From there he’ll head to the famed Mt. Airy bicycle shop—it’s part museum, part bike shop and entirely fun. And then it’s “just’ 54.6 mile to the finish. Strasser had a hard time dealing with his DNF of the 2009 Race Across America. It took a while for him to come to terms with having failed at his dream of doing well in RAAM. By tonight, the young Austrian will have truly earned his redemption. “I just love cycling,” he said this morning while he was powering up a steep climb, “And I love this race, and I love other races. When I am on the bike I just feel happy. It’s no problem when it is past eight days or more. I still love it.”



STEEPER THAN IT LOOKS: It's a well-known phenomenon that photographs are lousy at conveying the steepness of hills. See how steep this looks? It's actually much steeper...really.

STRASSER ON TRACK TO FINISH TONIGHT

Vic Armijo / Headed toward Gettysburg, Pennsylvania

June 23, 2011

Your crew in the Mighty RAAM Media 1 van caught solo male leader Christoph Strasser yesterday morning. For the rest of the day and into the wee hours of this morning, we shot photos and videos and interviewed Strasser in repeated drive bys. We finally left him behind in the Appalachians at 1:30am EST this morning; retired to a very poor 3 hours of sleep in the Mighty RAAM Media 1 van (big rig trucks rumbled by every few minutes). We caught him again this morning, still in the final miles of the Appalachians. We’re now about 90 miles ride time ahead of him, just outside of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. We’ll capture more images of the young Austrian as he pedals through the historic civil war battle site.

As expected, the relentless climbs of the Appalachians took a big chunk out of Strasser’s overall speed average. He’s now down to 15.11mph, just short of Pete Penseyres’ 15.4mph record. But with the tough climbing behind him and plenty of level roads ahead, there’s a very real chance that Strasser can bring that average back up.

This morning as we drove alongside him somewhere west of Cumberland, Maryland, I asked him what he’ll order when he finally gets to so sit down in a real restaurant in Annapolis (they have some good ones there!). Strasser laughed as he considered my question, and then said enthusiastically, “Everything!” Current projections have him finishing in Annapolis at 10:46 EST tonight. If those projections are accurate, he'll have completed the 3050 miles of the 2011 Race Across America in about 8 and a half days! I hope that some of those nice restaurants around the RAAM finish line at City Dock stay open late!

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

CHRIS GOTTWALD: “I left a lot on the table in 2009.”


Vic Armijo / Clarksburg, West Virginia
June 22, 2011 7:45 EST

Overlooked by many is 6th place RAAM Male Solo Chris Gottwald. Prior to the start of RAAM 2011, when in-the-know RAAM fans discussed the contenders, Gottwald’s name was rarely mentioned.

That’s surprising since we’re talking about a former US road pro; the rider who took 4th place in RAAM 2009 and was named RAAM Rookie of the Year. “I left a lot on the table in 2009,” he said. “If you look at my time splits early in the race I was one of the fastest guys coming out of here (Oceanside) and into the mountains. And then at the end of the race I was really full of energy. I slept a lot that year. I was getting six and seven hours a day. I finished about eleven hours in arrears to Baloh and Gulewicz so with just a little bit of cutting back on sleep I should be right up in contention.”

So far in RAAM 2011, Gottwald has ridden sort of under the radar. He was up near the leaders in the very early miles of RAAM 2011, but then settled into a pace that saw him drop back as far as 12th in Arizona. “We’re running a pace race,” says crew member Tony Giovanazi. “A lot of the guys went out hard and fast. Now they’re all coming back to us—it’s not that we’re catching up to them. They’re slowing down while Chris is maintaining where he’s been. You look at the average speeds and Chris has barely dropped down from the start. Physically he’s a hundred per cent still. He’s really well trained for this. So he’s had no real issues at all. The one thing we had problems with was coming through Kansas the other night—we had cross winds. That beat him up a little bit. And today we went through a construction area and that torn up road kind of dingled up his feet a bit, so we stopped at the next time station for ten minutes and then was back on the road. He’s tearing it up.”

Perhaps RAAM pundits overlook Gottwald due to his not coming back in 2010, or to his quiet demeanor and laid back approach to his cycling career, “I’ve always been sort of the guy next door who rides his bike a lot,” he said, “…the guy who’ll come home at the end of the day with perhaps a big win against some big names. And then I’ll go home and enjoy what I’m doing and perhaps sit down and have a cheeseburger and a milkshake with my kids when I get home.”

Well kids, when daddy gets home from this race he may need to sit down (or lay down) longer than usual, and he may want an extra cheeseburger…or two.




About the only issue Chris Gottwald has had so far was a flat on day one, not even 50 miles in to RAAM 2011

THE BATTLE BEHIND STRASSER

Vic Armijo /Time Station #45, Ellenboro, West Virginia

June 22, 2011

While Christoph Strasser continues on through west Virginia, exciting things are happening behind him.

Somewhere before time station 41 in Oxford, Ohio, Alberto Blanco (USA) moved past Marko Blanco (USA) to not only take over third, but to also pull a 24 minute lead over the Slovenian. Blanco has rallied the support of RAAM fans for his tenacious ride, in spite of his having to wear a head support to counter severe “Shermer’s Neck.” He’s now just 22 minutes behind 2nd place Gerhard Gulewicz (Austria).

Meanwhile 5th place Mark Pattinson is moving along steadily, about 50 miles behind Baloh.


And not to be overlooked is Chris Gottwald (USA) in 6th. Gottwald was 4th in 2009, earning RAAM Rookie of the Year honors. He was up near the leaders in the very early miles of RAAM 2011, but then settled into a pace that saw him drop back as far as 12th in Arizona, “We’re running a pace race,” said Gottwalad crew member Tony Giovinazzi, “A lot of the guys went out hard and fast. Now they’re all coming back to us—it’s not that we’re catching up to them.” If Gottwald is indeed wants to at least match his 2009 finish, with less than 700 miles to go, things need to happen soon.



Aside from a flat on day one, less than 50 miles in to RAAM 2011, Chris Gottwald's luck has been mostly good.

GULEWICZ MOVES UP TO SECOND PLACE


Vic Armijo / Parked in the Mighty RAAM Media 1 van at the Parkersburg Bridge over the Ohio River, Parkersburg, OH.

June 22, 2011

By overtaking Marko Baloh (Slovenia) the always steady Gerhard Gulewicz (Austria) has taken possession of second place. The pass came somewhere before time station 40 in Greensburg, Indiana. Once by Baloh, Gulewicz pulled away by a full hour. Meanwhile Alberto Blanco continues to soldier on in his cobbled together head-support contraption, reaching the Greensburg time station a mere one minute behind Gulewicz. Folks, we have a battle going on for second through fourth place. And don’t forget Mark Pattinson—he’s only one time station back. Any of the three ahead could falter—a bad turn, a bad, sleep or bad cup o’ yogurt is all it would take—and Pattinson could be in there too. This 30th Race Across America keeps getting more interesting by the hour!

“WHAT ARE YOU WEARING?!”


Vic Armijo / Athens, OH

June 22, 2011 12:45pm EST

We found Chrisoph Strasser about a half hour ago, rolling toward time station 43 in Athens Ohio. When we came up on him he had his phone to his ear, talking to his girlfriend Sabine. The Austrian continues to amaze! He truly seems to be enjoying his race, which is surely a huge factor in how well he’s doing.

His current average is 15.65mph, still above the record of 15.4mph that he’s working to beat. But today he’ll face some of the toughest miles in RAAM as he reaches the Appalachians Mountains. Unlike the sustained climbs of the western states where a racer can develop a rhythm and where there are long descents where a rider can recover, the hills of West Virginia and into Maryland are one climb after another—hill repeats for 200 miles. Strasser’s average will almost certainly drop in that stretch. But the following miles are relatively flat where if he has anything left in the tank, he may be able to kick up the pace and bring that average back up.

WANTED: CHRISTOPH STRASSER


HAVE YOU SEEN THIS MAN?


Subject Name: Christoph Strasser
Nation of Origin: Austria
Date of Birth: 11/04/1982
Height: 1.86 meters
Weight: 76 to 78 kilograms (depending on who is cooking).
Known Aliases: “Straps” “Chris”
Mode of Transportation: Specialized S-Works

Subject is a 29 year old male last seen traveling east of Blanchester, Ohio at approximately 20 mph. He was last seen wearing white and day-glow green cycling clothes with white shoes and a white cycling helmet. He is wanted for continued acts of excessive speed across multiple state lines. He is being pursued by a group of rivals made up of a Slovenian, an American, a fellow Austrian and another American. Subject is in the company of a group of foreign national traveling in a pair of mini-vans. These associates are known to play loud Euro Techno Pop over a loud speakers installed on their vans. They’ve also been known to invade local grocery establishments and empty these merchants of all fresh fruit, whole grain baked goods, tuna salad, and Camel cigarettes. They can be indentified by their unshaven appearance and obvious lack of adequate sleep.

Anyone knowing the whereabouts of Strasser or any of his associates should contact the occupants of the Mighty RAM Media 1 van. They would like to contact these individuals prior to the subject reaching the Appalachian Mountains.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Wait, I thought it don't rain in Indianapolis in the summer time...

,
Vic Armijo / Rolling East on Hwy 74 in Indiana






Well it started. Despite it being the first day of summer, we have rain. It's been coming down steadily for the past ten minutes. Somewhere up ahead between Bloomington and Greensburg, Indiana is a drenched Austrian. We'll keep the Mighty Media 1 van rolling until we once again catch up with RAAM Male Solo leader Christoph Strasser.

IS STRASSER NOW RACING A 68 YEAR OLD?


Vic Armijo / Rolling East in the Mighty RAAM Media 1 Van, somewhere in Indiana

June 21, 2011

Race Across America 2011 leader Christoph Strasser (Austria) is flat smoking! His current overall average is 16.05mph and he’s pulled a lead of over 150 miles on 2nd place Marko Baloh (Slovenia), who’s speed average is 14.9mph. While there’s still a lot of America left to Race Across, barring a sudden problem, the 29 year old is on track to not only take his first RAAM victory, but to also break the long-standing completed RAAM record of 15.4mph set by Pete Penseyres way back in 1986. So essentially, it could be said that Strasser is no longer racing against Strasser, he’s racing against Pete Penseyres!

Normally a RAAM rider's speed average will be slowing down a bit by this stage, but Strasser has actually speeded up, since yesterday when his average sat at 15.92mph. Meanwhile Baloh has a speed average of “only” 14.9




Penseyres, now 68 years old, visited the start of RAAM 2011 back in Oceanside. Pete still rides up to 400 miles a week and aside from having more gray hair and a few more facial creases, he looks about as fit as he did 25 years ago. “The ’86 RAAM was like the perfect storm,” Pete said of his record ride, “Everything worked. I tried a whole bunch of new stuff; the aero bars, liquid food, I had a disc wheel that year. Everything I tried worked.” Strasser has also enjoyed a fairly charmed RAAM. Aside from the heat in the California desert, weather conditions have been the best that this reporter has seen over the course of six previous RAAMs.

The Mighty RAAM Media 1 van is chasing down Strasser and will have updates on the Austrian later today.

WE FOUND STRASSER

Vic Armijo / Time Station 39, Bloomington, IN
June 21, 2011

“Good, good.
I feel good.

Everything is good.”

The crew in the Mighty RAAM Media 1 van found Christoph Strasser today, on his way in to time station 39 in Bloomington, Indiana. His arrival there at 3:36pm EST today marked his 2263rd mile.

The big news is that Strasser, with a current overall average speed of 16.22mph, continues to have the long-standing RAAM record of 15.4mph in his grasp. If he can continue to hold his pace for the remaining 726 miles, he’ll be the fastest since Pete Penseyres way back in 1986. But within those remaining miles are some of the toughest in RAAM. The Appalachians of West Virginia are especially daunting. Unlike the sustained climbs of the western states where a racer can develop a rhythm and where there are long descents where a rider can recover, the hills of West Virginia and into Maryland, with one climb after another, are like doing hill repeats for 200 miles.

We hadn’t seen RAAM solo male leader since Montezuma, Kansas, over 700 miles ago. And he seemed genuinely happy to see us as we pulled alongside and asked how he was feeling. His response was emphatic, “Good, good. I feel good. Everything is good.” And we sincerely believe him. He looks like someone out on weekend ride. His cadence is high; he’s solid in the saddle and not drooping over the bike as many RAAM riders are by this distance into the race. And it’s evident that he’s doing everything that he can to trim those crucial seconds; he stands and powers over the tops of the climbs, he tucks in tight to the bike on the descents, and he shifts up and pedals hard on those descents—everything that a racer would do in a “normal” race. This isn’t to say that he’s immune to fatigue, “A little bit sore, yeah,” He admitted, “Some saddle-sores, the legs of course, the feet. But not too much. Everything is within the normal range for such an event.”

To keep such a pace means minimizing his off-the-bike time. Strasser explained how manages that aspect, “I sleep for about one hour twenty minutes per night. My crew is so good trained and working well. I don’t do anything, I lay myself down and when I wake up everything is done. I am prepared. They put the clothing on. They do everything for me. I just have to go up and ride.”

There you have it. Strasser is proven to have the speed to win RAAM 2011 and to possibly break the speed record. He certainly has the crew. And what he has accomplished so far shows that he has the sheer determination for the job. In setting his 1986 record, everything came together in sync for Penseyres; his fitness, his equipment, the weather and that dash of luck that is always a part of racing, all came together in what Penseyres described as “the perfect storm.” Whether fortune is kind to Strasser remains to be seen. But as I sit here clicking away on my lap top in Bloomington, Strasser has been gone for about ninety minutes. And the wind, showers and possible thunderstorms that the National Weather Service promised us this morning seem to be arriving. The next 24 hours will be crucial for Strasser. We here in the Mighty Media 1 van will do our very best to keep you fans posted.

Rain and Thunderstorms in Indiana and Illinois!


Vic Armijo / West Alton, MO.
June 21, 2011 9:07am EST

Today is the first day of summer, but somehow the weather seems to have overlooked that. The weather prediction for today is rain and thunderstorms for Indiana and Illinois, right where RAAM Solo leader Christoph Strasser is and where the rest of top five will be throughout the next day or so.

The Mighty RAAM Media 1 van is headed east out of Missouri on a quest to chase down Strasser. We should be with him by lunch. Stay tuned!

http://forecast.weather.gov/MapClick.php?CityName=Effingham&state=IL&site=ILX&textField1=39.1196&textField2=-88.5509&e=0

Monday, June 20, 2011

DENNIS JOHNSON: 2nd Solo RAW & 1st Recumbent


Vic Armijo / Super-8 Motel, Washington, MO.

June 21, 2011 12:01 am, EST

Dennis Johnson’s passion for riding recumbents was immediately apparent when I met him in Oceanside before the start of RAW,” I’ve ridden recumbents ever since I began riding seriously,” he said, “I like the aerodynamics and the speed. I like the comfort. For something this long—especially for RAAM, the comfort starts to become a strategic advantage. John Schlitter, after riding RAAM in 2008, two weeks later went out and set the record at the Saratoga 24 Hours. Not many people could get off of riding RAAM on a regular road bike and then two weeks later go out and set a 24 hour record.”

Johnson rode—in comfort he’ll tell you—from Oceanside, CA. to Durango, CO. in 2 hours, 17 hours and 56 minutes, and averaging 13.01 mph over the 860 mile distance.

This wasn’t Dennis Johnson’s first affiliation with RAAM, or in this case RAW, “But it is my first time as a non-crew member,” he said, “I crewed in 2006 for Jim Kern, in 2007 for John Schlitter. 2-man team, in 2008 for John Schlitter’s first time RAAM recumbent finish.”

The Woodlands, Texas resident manages his wife’s medical practice “And I’m a stay at home dad,” he said. That situation helps him manage to get in his training, which surprisingly isn’t as rigorous as that of some RAAM riders, “A long month for me would be 1200 miles—so not as many miles as some but a lot of quality.” Unlike many racers who work in the bike industry, most of the people that Dennis encounters in his working life aren’t cyclists—they aren’t people who “get it.” “When I tell people about RAW either they think it’s real interesting or they just give me a glazed over look ‘cause they can’t grasp the magnitude of riding that far.”

JOAN DEITCHMAN WINS WOMEN SOLO RACE ACROSS THE WEST


Vic Armijo/ Super 8 Motel, Washington, MO.

June 20, 2011 / 12:20pm EST

“I don’t consider myself a super-talented athletes like a lot of the people I see here,” Joan Deitchman told me back in Oceanside, CA. “I see myself as a regular person with a lot of heart and dedication and I like to inspire other people to push their boundaries and see how far they can go too.” Well, Joan rode 857.6 miles—all the way to Durango, CO, covering the distance in 2 days, 22 hours, 58 minutes, with an average speed of 12.08mph to take first in the Women Solo under age 50 category.

When she’s not pedaling her bike through four states in less than three days, she works as a software engineer for Apple—a job that isn’t exactly conducive to logging long miles, “It’s difficult,” she lamented, “Apple is a company that works seven days a week sometimes. Luckily I have some co-workers that are understanding and I manage my time and prioritize what needs to be done. I do a lot of my long distance riding on the weekend.”

How does a “computer geek” become and endurance cyclist? Deitchman explained, “I spectated at Ironman Canada and got very excited about triathlon and started swimming, running, biking and decided that I like biking the best and realized that I like long distances rather than short. I like pushing my boundaries to see how far I can go.” She stuck with it and has done the Furnace Creek 508 twice, the HooDoo 500 once and the Race Across Oregon twice. “This is my first event over 500 miles,” she said before the start. But she didn’t seem daunted by the task ahead, “Everyone has crewed in 500 mile events before,” and her crew chief (“Overlord”), Sandy Earl, has recent RAAM experience; she started RAAM in 2010. “Yeah, I’d call it a pretty experienced crew, she said. concluded.” Deitchman’s RAW was ridden in memory of Jim Swarzman, “Jim was of a friend of ours who was killed while riding in a brevet a few months ago.” Well Joan, I think that Jim would be proud.

3rd Place RAAM Solo Male ALBERTO BLANCO: “I feel good, except for the neck.”

Vic Armijo / Washington, MO.

June 20, 2011 9:45p.m. EST

Ever get back from a few hours on your bike and feel a little neck stiffness? The reasons are simple, heads are heavy and when in a cycling position, especially when down on the aero-bars, the neck muscles are working overtime as they support the head. Hold that position for…oh…twenty or more hours a day and chances are high that those neck muscles will rebel and abandon their post. That very fate struck RAAM pioneer Michael Shermer in one of the first races back in the 80’s. And this exquisite little inconvenience will forever more be known as “Shermer’s Neck,” Not surprisingly, Michael is not particularly fond of this legacy. But that’s another story for a future blog.

Yesterday back in Kansas the Mighty RAAM Media 1 van happened upon third place RAAM male solo Alberto Blanco, wearing a cobbled-together head support device. His crew waved us off then—he’d just taken a feed and the wind was howling so they were understandably too busy for an interview. But this morning we found him again and things were going much better. “The neck, once it goes, it goes,” he said as we pulled alongside him. Asked if he’d lost much time to his condition, he answered, “It took us two days to come up with the brace and get it right. But now its working and I feel good, except for the neck.” Indeed. He’s keeping a great pace, has pulled away from 4th place Gerhard Gulewicz, and his average speed between the last several time stations are right up there with the rest of the top four.

“He started having neck issues on Wolf Creek Pass,” his crew chief, Dr. Robert Hernandez revealed, “He started feeling it on the descent. We switched to a lighter helmet and that helped. The following day from La Veta to Trinidad we started having some issues there.” Hernandez commented on the cause, “He was probably too aggressive on the position,” referring to Blanco’s standard road racer handlebar height—most RAAM racers put their bars a bit higher. “And for him this kind of mileage is uncharted territory,” Dr. Hernandez continued, “It’s hard to duplicate this type of problem in training. This is the first time he’s ever gone over 48 hours. In training we’ve ridden 24 hours. But really consistently like this? No.”

His support device is a real Rube Goldberg affair, made up of a back-pack frame and other bits that the crew had at hand. “Yeah, it’s funny,” Dr. Hernandez said. “The metal thing that is supporting his head on the top, that’s actually one of our wheel holders from the top of our car that we bent into that shape. We lost about four or five hours on stops getting this neck thing right.” According to Dr. Hernandez Shermer’s Neck is resistant to traditional means of relief, “Ice, massage, anti-inflammatories—Shermer’s Neck doesn’t respond to any of that. Theses muscles have just given out. Give him 7 to 10 days of rest after the race and the muscles will recover.”

Brace or not, keeping this kind of pace for the remaining miles is going to hurt. But Dr. Hernandez is confident in Blanco, “Mentally, he’s a bull. He’s just as strong mentally as anyone in the race. And his mental outlook is good. He’s cracking jokes, being himself. He’ll be fine. We just have to minimize the off-bike time.”

Good luck Alberto!

MARK PATTINSON: “On target for my nine days.”

Vic Armijo /Jefferson City, MO.

June 20, 2011 8:07p.m. EST

The Mighty RAAM Media 1 van rolled in behind 5th place RAAM male solo Mark Pattinson this morning somewhere between El Dorado and Yates Center, Kansas. In spite of the howling wind Pattinson was making good time and didn’t want to stop for an interview.

Fortunately his very accommodating crew took me into the follow car where I was able to interview their rider over his radio headset while we traveled down the road. It was impressive how well he was able to talk while answering my questions.

So far his race has gone very well, “Other than a few hiccups on the whole I’m pretty much on schedule,” Those “hiccups” was a bout of nausea, “I got sick on day two in the desert. I couldn’t keep any liquids down. But I had to keep moving. I was off for two hours, but it wasn’t too bad. It was a little bit scary. I wasn’t quite prepared for it.”

And so far he's escaped any signs of the dreaded “Shermer’s Neck” that ended his 2010 RAAM, “Last year it came on around Greensburg (Kansas). We fussed around with different braces. But the following day it was just getting so bad. I couldn’t even lift my chin off my chest. I thought it was too dangerous. So far so good this year. I feel very comfortable and haven’t had any problems.” I told Pattinson about Herman Bachman, the age 50+ racer who had his 2009 RAAM defeated by Shermer’s neck, and how Bachman told me of doing neck exercises with bungee cords attached to his helmet while he pedaled his trainer. Pattinson laughed at the suggestion, saying “I’ve done neck exercises, but I haven’t done multi-tasking! I just spend about ten minutes doing them before I begin my training session.” By the RAAM leaderboard (http://www.raceacrossamerica.org/raam/rcrank.php?s_N_category_group=1&s_N_Race_ID=1) we see that Pattinson is a good distance from anyone. Asked when he last saw another rider Pattinson again laughed and said “Good question. I saw…oh back in Arizona maybe. No, I haven’t seen a solo man since back in California. I’ve seen David Jones.” And he’s fine being alone and riding his own pace, “I don’t want to get involved in a head to head battle,” he said, “That would be the death of me. I ride, I recover, I ride, I recover again. Because of that I’m not the best rider in the middle of the race or the beginning of the race. If I keep doing that I’ll be in good shape. I’m still on target for my nine days. So we’ll see.”

With that I bid Mark good bye and turned to speak with his crew in the follow car. While Pattinson is listed as an American, he has a distinctly British accent. His crew told me that he’s been a US citizen for a few years, and that his work brought him across the pond, “He’s an ex finance guy,” one said. Forgetting that I was still wearing the team’s communication headset I joked “A lot of those ex-finance guys are doing time,” and Mark chimed in with “Well, I’m doing time out here on the bike.” Indeed Mark, indeed.