Vic Armijo / Wolf Creek Pass, CO
June 17, 2011
With the sun starting to hide behind the mountain RAAM Media 1 headed up to Wolf Creek Pass, hoping to find some riders on that awesomely scenic climb before losing our sunlight. We’d nearly reached the 10,857 foot summit, already thinking that we weren’t going to spot anyone, when up ahead we spotted a thin, tall rider with impeccable pedaling form. Yup, Slovenian Marko Bahlo, 2nd place solo male. We pulled alongside and he gave us a nod and a smile. “Good. I’m feeling good. Everything is good,” he said. “But I am getting cold.” Indeed, the altitude, and the cold air blowing off the snow fields and snow banks just beyond the road’s edge were putting a definite bite to the air that would definitely chill a cyclist dressed in just shorts, jersey and thin sun sleeves. Almost on cue his support crew was up ahead at the summit, ready to feed him and put him into some more layers of clothes to keep him warm on the descent down the other side. The summit of Wolf Creek Pass sits on top of the Continental Divide. There’s a monument at the summit with a paved line on the ground designating the Divide. Baloh’s crew had placed a chair for him right on top of the divide and as he sat down for them to attend to him, his right foot was in the eastern segment of North America and is left foot was in the western. Cute. His pit stop was like a Formula 1 race. One crew member fed him, another changed his socks while yet another helped him to don arm-warmers, a vest, leg-warmers, a skull cap and a jacket.
While all this went on a crew member told me a bit about Baloh’s race so far. With the dry heat and fine dust particle of the desert well behind him, it seems that Baloh has escaped the lung issues that ended his 2005 RAAM and landed him in hospital. He took a sleep break at 3:00 am this morning. He had been leading Christoph Strasser by two minutes at that point, but pulled in nonetheless for some horizontal time. He’ll take another break at the same time tomorrow morning, “How long? It depends how he feels and everything,” the crew member said, “But the longest it will be is three hours. He can’t sleep for short periods,” he said, referring to riders such as the late Jure Robic who sometimes took scheduled sleep breaks that were as short as 30 minutes. “He needs more. He prefers longer.”
Strasser now has about 40 miles on Baloh. Which by RAAM standards isn’t much. Baloh certainly seems calm. There’s a lot of America left to Race Across.