June 18, 2011
RAAM is a huge challenge for any cyclist. Most rookies when asked about their goals for their first RAAM give me the practically standard pre-race interview answer, “To finish.” But it seems that Alberto Blanco (USA) isn’t our usual rookie. He’s been among the front runners since day one and is currently fourth, just behind Gerhard Gulewicz.
We caught up to Blanco this morning between La Veta and Trinidad Colorado—one of the most beautiful stretches of road on this year’s RAAM. There I was able to speak with his crew chief and the Media 1 videographer, Andrew, got to ride along in the support car. Andrew’s video from that will be up later today.
Amazingly, 29 year old Blanco is very new to all this, having done his first endurance cycling event just last year at the 24 Hours of Sebring. How did he do in that first event? “Oh, he won,” related his crew chief, Robert Hernandez, a physician from Miami, Florida. Blanco did 450 miles at Sebring. “Conditions were atrocious. But he even beat the tandem people,” his cycling buddy Hernandez said proudly. With that first endurance ride Blanco qualified for RAAM.
How does a newcomer come on the scene so strongly? “Alberto is a great rider with a lot of talent. His stamina is just amazing,” Hernandez explained. Those attributes carried him to a stint as a pro cyclist. He was on the Mengoni Team and the Foundation Team.
His crew members are all RAAM rookies too. “We did Sebring and we did Adirondack. We have some experience,” Hernandez said “Of course not as much as the real seasoned guys—Baloh, Gulewicz, Strasser. Even the guys that are behind us—Chris (Gottwald) was RAAM Rookie of the Year previously. But we’re trying and we’re doing our best.”
Blanco’s wife, Veronica Maldonado, is a past RAAM winner, having been on a 4-person mixed team back in’97. When Veronica was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease a couple of years ago Blanco he decided to take this up as a challenge. Blanco is racing for Team RAPD (Race Against Parkinson’s Disease) “We really hope to increase awareness for this disease,” Hernandez shared. “It’s a very benevolent cause that hits home with him.
We’ve seen by his past as a cycling pro and by his position so far that Blanco has the speed to be a RAAM contender. And in riding for his cause he certainly has the motivation, “He’s really fired up for this. We all hope for the best,” Hernandez said in conclusion, “I know very few people who mentally as tough as Alberto. He’s a very determined guy.”