Vic Armijo / Fort Scott, Kansas
June 20, 2011, 2:05pm ESTAll but one of the top ten solo men are beyond the half-way point of the 2011 Race Across America. This second half of RAAM has a distinctly different flavor than the first. By this time the early mile enthusiasm has waned for many as miles and fatigue take their toll and our leader board could change drastically by Annapolos, In the 30 year history of RAAM huge leads have disappeared over the course of a day. Put another way, a RAAM adage is “The race begins at the Mississippi,” and that’s still an entire state away for most of these riders.
Christoph Strasser maintains his lead and is currently somewhere between Camdenton and Jefferson Cityy, Missouri and tenth place Claudio Clarindo should be to about Pratt, Kansas by now (Hey Claudio, be sure to visit Starvin’ Marvin!). Our top ten are spread out over about 250 miles of Kansas and Missouri, which by RAAM standards is practically a peleton.
TOP FIVE SOLO MALE
1st. CHRISTOPH STRASSER (Austria): 1821.40 miles, 4 days, 18 hours, 17 minutes, average speed 15.94 mph
This guy is the real deal. He’s been at the front of the back since California where he and 2nd place Marko Baloh began a 36 hour game of cat-and-mouse that lasted until Mexican Hat, Utah. Strasser hasn’t given up the lead since, nearly 1200 miles later. While he’s young by RAAM standards (29 years old) he has plenty of experience. He set a fast pace at RAAM 2009 before DNF-ing with lung issues He’s gotten stronger since that RAAM disappointment, “I had very good races, he said of his 2010 season, “I won the World Championship title in Ultra Bike and was second place in Race Around Slovenia behind Jure Robic. And I set a new record for crossing Austria” He credits his successes to a slight change in his training; “I pushed down the hours of training and pushed up the intensity.”
2nd. MARKO BALOH (Slovenia): 1706 miles, 4 days, 15 hours, 15 minutes, average speed 15.25 mph
The 44 year old is currently about one time station behind Strasser. He’s one of the most experienced racers in the field. He’s had a second place and third place as a RAAM solo, and a second place on a 2-rider team. Yesterday (Sunday) Baloh’s crew member, Anze Baselu remarked, “He’s having no problems. He is a bit sleepy. But they are always sleepy on RAAM. Yesterday (Saturday) there was a lot of headwind so he was maybe a little bit slower. But today (before Greensbug, KS) he was very good; his average speed was 20 miles per hour.”
3rd. ALBERTO BLANCO (USA): 1706 miles, 4 days, 17 hours, 55 minutes, average speed 14.98 mph
The 29 year old RAAM rookie continues to impress. By the end of day one he established himself as a front runner and hasn’t been out of the top five since. And despite a case of Shermer’s Neck (severe fatigue of the neck muscles) that’s had him wearing a neck support device since Sunday morning, he and Gerhard Gulewicz have been battling over third place since yesterday morning. Don’t give up on Blanco—Alan Larson also battled Shermer’s neck in 2004, resorted to a similar support device and went on to win. Yesterday we in the Mighty RAAM Media 1 van found Blanco and crew stopped alongside some Kansas corn fields. We’d hoped to talk with Alberto or crew chief Robert Hernandez, but we were waved off, apparently having enough on their plate without having to put up with pesky media. Perhaps today we can get some comments.
4th. GERHARD GULEWICZ (Austria): 1647 miles, 4 days, 14 hours, 33 minutes, average speed 14.90 mph
No one in this year’s field has the experience of Gerhard Gulewicz, with six consecutive RAAM starts. “I think it’s my big point in racing RAAM. There are a lot very good riders and everybody wants to win. If I am fast and can put all of my knowledge from the past years together, then I hope that it works.”
For the past two years the former body builder has been the bridesmaid, finishing second behind Danny Wyss in 2009 and second behind Jure Robic in 2010. His first RAAM was 2006, “The first year I finished seventh,” he recalled, “…then third in 2007, then I had the accident,” (he had a race ending crash at Kayenta, AZ). He’s having a good ride and is actually well ahead of his 2010, currently holding a total overall average speed nearly 2mph faster than at this point last year.
5TH. MARK PATTINSON (USA): 1582.50 miles, 4 days, 16 hours, 9 minutes, average speed 14.11 mph.
Here’s a rider who shouldn’t be counted out. His second place ride in his rookie ride of 2008 startled the RAAM world and served notice that he’s a factor. He sat out 2009, returned in 2010 and was having a good race, and was running as high as fifth place when he succumbed to Shermer’s neck in Missouri. Like Gulewicz, Pattinson is also ahead of his 2010 race. He put in some rough miles yesterday, battling high winds in Kansas. Those winds continue today but he’s on course and will reach Missouri sometime today.
We found Pattinson this morning between El Dorado and Yates Center, Kansas. I got a great interview with him as he rolled down the road, an Andrew got some video from inside of his follow car. My interview and Andrew’s video will be up on this blog soon.
1ST. (under age 50) LEAH GOLDSTEIN (Israel): 1582.50 miles, 5 days, 16 hours, 5 minutes, average speed 11.63mph
While she’s essentially racing against only the clock—the only other rider in her category dropped out back at Kayenta, Arizona), Goldstein continues to put in a stunning ride. While her current overall speed average of 11.63mph is short of the records of 6-time female solo Seana Hogan—her best was 13.23mph—Goldstein’s pace is the fastest in years, possibly since the reign of Hogan. We found Goldstein east of Yates Center, Kansas this morning where we found her in great spirits, “I’m feeling GOOD today,” she said as we pulled alongside her. She was alone at the time, her crew having leapfrogged ahead. I jokingly asked “Were you too harsh with them? Did they ditch you?” She gave a good laugh and shook her head, “No, no. I’m being good. They’re up ahead.”
1st. (age 50+) KATHY ROCHE-WALLACE (USA): 1200.9 miles 5 days, 11 hours, 6 minutes, average speed 9.16 mph
Like Goldstein, KathyRoch-Wallace is the sole survivor of her category—Janet Christiansen and Debbie Tirrito both pulled out back in Arizona. While this is her first involvement with RAAM, she’s an experienced endurance athlete, having done the 24 National Challenge in Michigan. Primal Quest, some 10-Day Adventure Races, Triple Ironman. She even did a personal challenge of doing five Ironmans in five days. There’s an organized ten Ironmans if 10 days in Mexico called “La Decca,” but since she wasn’t able to do that she decided to do it all on her own. “I really wanted to do ten successive days of full Ironman distances,” she said, “But I only made it to five. The hard part was being by myself. Without the other athletes out there it’s really hard to stay mentally focused.”