May, 2003

The 22nd annual transcontinental bicycle race - the Race Across AMerica or RAAM will start in San Diego, CA on June 15, 2003 for the solo riders. San Diego is a brand new starting location.  The race will finish some [very long] 8-11 days later in Atlantic City, NJ where the 1983-1986 RAAM's also finished.  The RAAM has not finished in the Northeast since 1989 when Paul Solon won in New York City.  

There are 54 time stations along the route.  The section with the most climbing [5,640 feet] is fairly early in the race between Jerome and Payson, AZ, however late in the race there are two sections [one in WV and one in MD] with over 4,300 feet of climbing up steeper hills which could give the climbing specialists a clear advantage over the flat-landers.  After crossing the Ohio River in Parkersburg, WV, there are 5 sections with over 2,700 feet of climbing in WV and MD which will make the race seem to drag on forever.  
RAAM 2003 -- Vital statistics

San Diego to Atlantic City
Solo Start: June 15, 2003 7:00 am PST
Team Start; June 26, 2003 1:00 pm PST
Bring your bike and join the parade start for the first 15 miles
2922 Miles       14 States

Start Line celebration: at the Holiday Inn Banquet facility,  1355 N. Harbor Dr., San Diego, CA, Riders introductions and dinner - Sat. June 14, 2003, 5:00 pm.

Finish Line Celebration : at the finish line - awards, great band from
San Diego: Liquid Blue, includes dinner, Wed. June 25, 2003, 6:00 pm

You are invited to both the Start & Finish celebrations - tickets at the
RAAM Store - http://www.raceacrossamerica.org
Looking at the current starting roster, I think Slovenian Marko Baloh will win rookie-of-the-year, and maybe finish in the top 3.  Unless Wolfgang Fasching makes a last minute entry [he would be the clear favorite going for an unprecedented 4th win], there will only be one winner racing - Rob Kish.  This is the fewest winners in RAAM [men's race] since 1990 when there were no winners on the starting roster.  Only 3 other RAAM's had no winners racing:  1982, 1987, and 1988.  The RAAM with the most winners racing was 1998 with 5: Solon, Kish, Tatrai, Chew, and Fasching.  Winning experience counts for a lot in RAAM as 4 of these riders were the top 4 finishers that year.  Until you get a RAAM win under your belt, there is a tendency to keep self-doubting your ability to do it.  

If it is HOT, Rob Kish will probably win.  If not, I see a fiercely competitive race between Kish [3 time winner starting his 18th RAAM], Allen Larsen [3rd place and rookie-of-the-year last year], Martin Lorenz [4th place and rookie-of-the-year in 2000], Fabio Biasiolo [3rd place in 2000], and Mark Patten [5th place overall in 2001].  Both Patten and Biasiolo will be hell bent on finishing after being plagued by a bunch of DNF's between them.
12 men have won the solo GABR/RAAM thus far:

1st  Lon Haldeman - 1982, 1983
2nd  Pete Penseyres - 1984, 1986
3rd  Jonathan [Jock] Boyer - 1985
4th  Michael Secrest - 1987
5th  Franz Spilauer - 1988
6th  Paul Solon - 1989
7th  Bob Fourney - 1990, 1991
8th  Rob Kish - 1992, 1994, 1995
9th  Gerry Tatrai - 1993, 1998
10th Danny Chew - 1996, 1999
11th Wolfgang Fasching - 1997, 2000, 2002
12th Andrea Clavadestscher - 2001
13th ???????????????????? - 200?

The big question is whether
or not there will become a 13th man to win this
year??????  Only one person Kish can stand in the
would be winner's way!!!!!!!!  

There have been 8 solo GABR/RAAM race directors thus far.  They are:

1982 - Jerry Kushnick
1983-1985 - Robert Hustwit
1986-1992 - John Marino
1993-1995 - Michael Shermer
1996-1999 - NIck Gerlich
2000-2002 - Lon Haldeman and Susan Notorangelo
2003-? - Jim Pitre
Concerning the New record setting time awards:

Using 2,922 miles as the official distance of the 2003 RAAM, the first SOLO MAN to beat Pete Penseyres' 15.40 mph average speed record [set in 1986 on a course 185 miles longer] will win $10,000.  This means they would have to finish in under 7 Days, 21 Hours, 44 Minutes or 7:21:44.  This would become the new single RAAM/Absolute Time/Average Speed record!  Although they would not win any money for it, a rider would have to finish in under 7:23:16 [average speed: 15.28 mph] to beat Michael Secrest's absolute time record set in 1990 on a course 10 miles shorter outside of RAAM, and a rider would have to finish in under 8:03:11 [average speed: 14.97 mph] to beat Rob Kish's RAAM record set in 1992 on a course 11 miles shorter.  

The first SOLO WOMAN to beat Seana Hogan's 13.23 average speed record [set in 1995 on a course 10 miles shorter] will win $10,000.  This means they would have to finish in 9:04:52.

The first 4 PERSON TEAM to beat Kern Wheelmen's 23.04 mph average speed record [set in 1996 on a course 17 miles shorter] will win $10,000.  This means they would have to finish in under 5:06:49.  

The first 2 PERSON TEAM to beat Discover Ceara/Powerbar's 17.64 mph average speed record [set in 2001 on a course 61 miles longer] will win $1,500.  This means they would have to finish in under 6:21:39.  If any 2 person team can establish a new 19.5 mph average speed record [finishing time: 6:05:51] they would win an additional $8,500 making their total $10,000.

Please note that a RAAM rider's average speed is determined by using the official RAAM distance which can be many miles shorter than what they actually ride depending on how many extra miles they ride from getting lost.  Crews, please navigate your rider[s] very carefully!  
I will be going along on the 2003 RAAM as a writer who may often wish he was a rider.  I will be traveling with the Outdoor Life Network camera crew and jumping from crew to crew to give you the inside scoop of rider's glories and agonies.  

Solo RAAM Rookie Records

In 1993, Muffy Ritz [finishing 2nd to Seana Hogan] set the women's rookie record of 9 Days, 16 Hours, 29 Minutes on a 2,910 mile course giving her an average speed of 12.49 mph.  This is the undisputed record!  

The men's rookie record involves looking at average speed versus absolute time.  Jonathan [Jock] Boyer is the only "rookie" to ever win RAAM in 1985.  His time of 9:02:06 on a LONG 3,120 mile course gives him the average speed record of 14.31 mph.  This was so VERY IMPRESSIVE because he was not using aero handlebars or aero/disk wheels - considered standard equipment for modern day RAAM riders, and together they knock off nearly a full day from finishing times.  

In 1994, I established a rookie time record of 9:00:29, but my average speed was only 13.40 mph given the SHORT 2,901 mile course.  More than a mph slower than Boyer and using better/faster equipment then him, I hardly felt worthy of the title fastest rookie rider.  Heck, in 1986, Matt Beerer's time of 9:08:57 on a LONG course of 3,107 miles gave him a better average speed then me of 13.81 mph.  

In 1996, Wolfgang Fasching set the current rookie time record of 8:14:26 on a SHORT 2,905 mile course giving him an average speed of 14.07 mph or 0.24 mph slower than Boyer, and using better equipment.  Fasching's ride was clearly better than mine, but not as impressive as Boyer's.

Because RAAM routes can vary by more than 200 miles, it makes more sense to look at average speeds than finishing times.  RAAM records set on LONG courses are much more impressive considering that the average speed had to me maintained for 200 or so more miles over the toughest part [the end] of RAAM when the rider can be the most fatigued/delirious!  

I commend new RAAM race director Jim Pitre for acknowledging Pete Penseyres' average speed record of 15.40 mph as the mark to beat for the $10,000 bonus prize.  In similar fashion, Muffy Ritz's rookie average speed record of 12.49 mph would correlate to a finishing time of 9:17:57 on the 2003 RAAM course of 2,922 miles.  Boyer's rookie average speed record of 14.31 mph would correlate to a finishing time of 8:12:12.  These are both AMAZING records which should have rewards/incentives/prizes to motivate rookies to try to beat them.  

To all you rookies out there racing RAAM this year, good luck and please remember being a RAAM rookie is a ONE SHOT DEAL!  However, under RAAM rules, even if you drop out of RAAM, you still have used up your rookie status.  Theoretically, a rider could drop out of 5 RAAM's [considered a veteran on their 2nd RAAM] and have ridden less miles than a rookie having just ridden their first 2,800 miles of RAAM.  What I am getting at here is that rookies should finish RAAM to get as much experience/mileage as possible.  

         Pre-RAAM Solo Rider Interviews
I began my work with the OLN film crew (Rod Elisha & Don Garcia) and Scott Johnson by interviewing the solo RAAM riders on Friday and Saturday.  The rider who came across with the most confidence in his ability to win was Allen Larsen.  Being such a competitive person, he was disappointed that Fasching wasn't back this year.  Mark Patten emphasized he was Racing (to win) not just riding Across AMerica.  Ever since he finished his first RAAM back in 1998, his goal has been to win and not just finish.  He believes he has the ability to beat anybody in the race at any given time.  He likes to hide from other riders near him while he sleeps which I discovered in my 2001 battle against him for 3rd place.  Mark is starting at 175 pounds - 15 pounds heavier than last year, but 15 pounds lighter than his first 3 RAAM's.  

Fredi Virag has the smallest crew (4 people in one vehicle) which he also had last year to finish 5th.  Youngest rider (31) Martin Lorenz has the biggest crew of 11 bodies.  Lorenz said he would be happy to equal his 4th place finish in 2000.  Rob Kish told me that it wan't until his 5th RAAM in 1990 that he had the confidence he could win.  He said that heat would give him a big advantage, and that the biggest change he has seen in technology over the years has been aerodynamic handlebars.  He considers his biggest competition to be Fabio Biasiolo, Allen Larsen, and Marko Baloh.  Kish said that Lorenz should be able to take some 12 hours off of his rookie crossing in 2000.  

If Fasching and I could not win RAAM as rookies, is it possible that a rookie could win this year?  Slovenian Marko Baloh has the most natural road racing talent of the field, having beaten Fasching in the Race Across the Alps, and a 24 hour race, but can he handle the sleep deprivation aspects of RAAM that start to set in after 3 days?   4 time Slovian National Road Champion Jure Robic also holds the Slovian 24 hour record of 803 Km.  

6'5" tall Rookie Rick Ashabranner's crewing experience for Ish Makk last year should help him a lot.  When this year's route comes within 5 miles of his parents house in St. Peters, MO (near St. Louis), he plans to have a rest/sleep stop there.  Larry Schwartz's (He was hit by a school bus mirror at the beginning of May and died 3 days later) fiance Judith Jolly is on Rick's crew.  Judith and Larry were going to get married a week ago on June 8th.  I rode with Larry on two Texas Hell Week's in 1999 & 2000.  Such an incident makes all of us realize just how vulnerable we all are out there riding on public roads.  

The oldest (54) male rookie Paul Bonds knows all too well about the dangers of motorized vehicles.  In December, 2001, his 14 year old daughter Jennifer (who was faster/stronger on the bike than her father) was struck and killed by a motorist as she stood next to her father waiting to cross a road.  Paul is riding RAAM in memory of his daughter - for the Jennifer Bonds memorial scholarship fund.  He is a community activist for road safety.  Terry Lansdell runs the "Bikes of Charlotte" advocacy group.  

Before doing his first RAAM in 1999, Terry had already crewed for John Stoneman in 1994, Muffy Ritz in 1995, and Rob Kish in 1996 & 1997.  Even though he was an official RAAM finisher in 2000, Terry did not feel worthy of a RAAM ring because he did not finish within 48 hours of winner Fasching.  In 2000, a new RAAM time limit of 12 days & 2 hours was established for official finisher status.  So his goal this year is to finish within 48 hours of the winner.  In 1999, he only missed it by 1:32.    

2nd place 1982 Great American Bike Race (the first transcontinental bike race) finisher John Howard showed up at the rider/crew meeting.  Jim Pitre said that if a rider beats Howard to the 2nd time station 121 miles in El Centro, CA, they have to finish all of RAAM in order to collect the Compu-Trainer prime offered.  

Solo riders and teams were introduced at the banquet where RAAM average speed (15.40 mph) record holder Pete Penseyres talked and showed slides of his 7 transcontinental crossings.  The reason why you are not considered old in RAAM until you hit 50 is because Pete set this amazing record at age 43.  Pete is indeed very generous and sharing with his knowledge.  During my early RAAM years, Pete sent me information on his 15.4 mph ride in 1986 on stuff like hour many hours he slept each night and what all he ate.  

Day 1 - June 15th

After finishing 8 consecutive RAAM?s from 1994-2001, I began my first RAAM today without my bicycle under me, but instead with a microphone and laptop computer to give my Insight into this amazing event.  While much of the day I wished I were riding, I realized that the RAAM mode I was in was a far cry from the RAAM mode (I set my mind to deal with tremendous hardships, always being aware of the clock ticking away) I endured as a rider.  

About 200 cyclists rode the 21-mile parade start with 17 men and 1 woman (the solo field).  About 40 miles in, I saw Mark Patten stop and place his palms into little mini refrigerator boxes atop his areobar armrests.  His crew told me they were using new prototype technology - Rapid Thermal Exchange which can lower his body temperature by as much as 4 degrees in just 3 minutes.  But are 3 minutes worth giving up each hour in order to stay cool?  1990 & 1991 RAAM winner Bob Fourney once told me that he would jump into a bathtub full of ice water to lower his body temperature on RAAM.  

At the first time station at Pine Valley 50 miles in, Jure Robic was ahead of Baloh, Larsen, and Knaus by 3 minutes.  74 miles in at Bankhead Springs, John Howard?s back went out shortly after which Robic pulled away from him.  Heat and lack of distance training (longest ride of year was 85 miles) caused Howard to stop riding 10 miles short of the 2nd time station in El Centro, which his Compu-Trainer prime was to for the first person to beat him there.  Arriving there 15 minutes before Larsen, Robic won the prime and can collect it only if he finishes.  Baloh rolled in I minute later and took a 7-minute bathroom break.  

The temperature maxed out at 115 degrees F at 19:10 (4:10pm local time).  At Imperial Sand Dunes (luckily it was not very windy thru there), Baloh stopped for another 7 minutes for massage.  He led thru TS#3 in Glamis 10 minutes ahead of Robic.  Leader Baloh rode 203 miles to Palo Verde in the first 12 hours of RAAM.  Perhaps the most excitement of the day happened at TS#4 in Blythe where Baloh arrived first and had to stop for 10 minutes to wait while his crew gassed up his follow vehicle as night descended on a cloudless scorching first day.  During this time, Kish rode by taking the lead, and Baloh pulled out 2 minutes after Kish.  Robic arrived 2 minutes after Kish and went into his RV for a sit down pasta dinner and massage.  When I left Blythe 10 minutes later, he was still inside.  

At the CA/AZ state line, Baloh passed Kish to retake the lead, and Larsen made AZ some 15 minutes later in 3rd place - having passed Robic before there.  I was very surprised at Virag?s DNF at El Centro just 121 miles into the race.  I hope his crew can talk him into re-entering the race like mine did to me one morning in Durango, CO in 1994 after I got a good, long nights rest in the only motel room I have ever slept in during RAAM. The night before I dropped out which took pressure off my crew and I.  Believe it or not, 5 people have dropped out of RAAM with fewer miles ridden than 121.  

Dr. Bob Beeson in 1984 after riding 100 miles
Dennis Bock in 1987 after riding 54 miles
Michael Trail in 1988 after 70 miles
Tom Seabourne in 1991 after 85 miles
Tom Celta in 1998 after 84 miles.  

I was impressed with how well Slovians Baloh and Robic held up in such brutal HEAT.  Seemed every rider I interviewed had some choice words to say bout the heat including the F word by Patten.  Baloh showed he was the superior athlete today by still leading despite taking at least 3 stops totaling 24 minutes.  Kish always jokes about how he rides to ?slow? to afford the luxury of taking such stops.  

The 3 words I think which best describe RAAM are Tiredness Beyond Belief.  Everybody gets tired on RAAM, but it is how a man or woman deals with their tiredness and hardships thrown their way that distinguishes them at the RAAM finish line.     

Day 2 - June 16th

The OLN film crew and I stayed in beautiful Prescott, AZ for over 16 hours going back and forth through town, and out up into the mountains in a successful attempt to shoot every solo rider.  We invited Terry Lansdell, Trena, and some of their crew to use our motel room for showers after which we watched Terry roll by our room in 10th place.  

Allen Larsen passed Marko Baloh somewhere in the middle of the night to take the race lead which he held all day and increased to nearly 3 hours ahead of Baloh.  A very impressive performance from a Northwest man in extreme heat he is unaccustomed to.  According to Keith Krombel?s on bike thermometer, today (high temp 118) was even hotter than yesterday(114).  Larsen?s first 24 hour split was 393 miles.  Driving on the long narrow switchback descent through Jerome, AZ made me yearn to be riding.  I deem Jerome to be perhaps the most classic town on the entire route!  

It took us 8 hours of driving to go from the back of the field to the front, which is now over 12 hours spread out.  Martin Lorenz told me that he vomited today.  Patten told me that he plans to ride the entire night catching as many people who stop to sleep as possible.  I came upon Robic at a bathroom break in his RV where Fredi Virag told me about his DNF yesterday.  After a 5-hour IV hospital visit, a doctor told Virag that he should quit the race.  He plans to follow the race the entire way to Atlantic City.  

2nd place Baloh stopped 5 times today totaling about an hour.  He told me that he has beaten Fasching twice in the Race Across the Alps, and that Jure Robic has beaten Fasching once in the same race.  Concerned about winning the first rookie prime to the Continental Divide in Pie, Town, NM, Baloh wanted to know exactly where Robic was to base the amount of sleep he was going to take tonight.  

The OLN film crew and I finally caught up to the front of the race with leader Allen Larsen at time station #12 in Springerville, AZ.  Just before there, he stopped for about an hour to sleep, but was unable to get to sleep, so he mounted his Trek bike and rode out of town into the night under a full moon.    One of the biggest worries a RAAM rider has is wasted off the bike time spent when lying down trying to sleep.  I would ask a crew member of mine to make note of how much of my lying down time was spent snoring.  Pete Penseyres actually had a crew member watch for Rapid Eye Movement (REM) while he was sleeping, so that as soon as it stopped, his first sleep cycle was over at which time a crew member would wake him.    

Among the riders I interviewed yesterday, Baloh, Patten, When might the lead team rider catch the last solo rider bridging the gap between the two races?  Valsesia, Lansdell, were the most talkative, while Biasiolo and Larsen were the least.  After another scorcher day, riders had long sleeves on in mid 70 F weather.  Sunburned skin is extremely sensitive to lower temperatures, and as riders loose bodyfat across the country, temperatures can start to feel some 15 degrees colder than they actually are.    

Tuesday Morning Update:  Riding thru Springerville, AZ in 6th place, Robic was on his spare bike asking me to find him a mechanic to fix the bad bottom bracket on his primary bike.  It looked like either Patten had to succumb (a weakness in his mind) to sleep, or had a horrible night just crawling along since he did not move up in places overnight.  Such nights are inevitable in RAAM!  A huge thanks goes out to RAAM webmaster Tom Kingsbury and his partner for creating a program which now gives time station data for past time stations which used to be over ridden when the new times were called in.  Mid and rear packers will welcome overcast skies and cooler temperatures today after the first two cloudless, extremely HOT days, which fried them, but it comes at a price: a strong headwind.  Larsen has now been in the lead for 36 hours ever since he took it from Baloh back on the first night before Hope, AZ.  Moreover, he has been increasing his lead to over 4 hours over the Continental Divide just after Pie Town, NM where 2nd place Baloh won a prime as first rookie.      


The teams left San Diego today at 16:00 race (Eastern Standard) time.  In 4x, Team VAIL has led each time station, averaging 20.9 mph to Prescott, AZ.  In 2x, Team Rieper/Goodwin has led each time station, averaging 18.3 mph to Hope, AZ.  In the 8x Corporate Team, Teams Insight and Ride to Remember have been exchanging leads.   Reaching Congress, AZ first, Team Insight has averaged 18.8 mph.  

Solo leader Larsen has averaged 14.9 mph to the Continental Divide 700 miles into the race in Pie Town, NM.  The lead 4x team will gain 6 miles on Larsen every hour they are both riding, and nearly 21 miles every hour Larsen is stopped.  When might the lead team rider catch the last solo rider bridging the gap between the two races?  Last placed solo rider Kaldi Attila is averaging 10.4 mph to time station #9 in Strawberry, AZ.  Moving twice as fast across the country, Team VAIL caught the last place solo rider Beny Furrer at 21:20 on June 17th 13 miles past Show Low, AZ.  

Day 3 - June 17th

I saw 25 mph headwinds and rain batter Rick Ashabranner?s 6?5? tall body into Springerville, AZ.  The OLN film crew and I worked our way to the back of the solo field to get that important point on the route where the lead team passes the last solo rider bridging the gap between the two races.  We saw Kaldi and Bonds at time station # 11 in Show Low, AZ manned by ultra marathon cyclist James ?Myhee? Mergler who lives near by.  He once rode 206+ miles on all 31 days of March, 1994 on a recumbent.  On the 11th day when he developed Achilles tendon problems, he started riding on a 0.14 mile loop at a shopping mall parking lot.  With this kind of mental toughness, how well might he do in RAAM?  

Before we saw lead Team Vail catch last solo rider Furrer between Show Low and Springerville, we met Team Vail?s Brett Malin and his crew including his brother and father who talked strategy.  After ironing out the problems on the first day, the GO FAST team was becoming a well-oiled unit.  

The West is so desolate that thru much of AZ and NM I had no internet access.  In just 3 days, the race has stretched out so far that we had to drive the entire width of New Mexico (over 400 miles) on Interstate 40 (to obtain internet access) to Tucumcari where we still ended up just short of leader Larsen before succumbing to sleep there at the first motel.   Larsen increased his lead to over 10 hours on Fabio by Tucumcari.  I had originally thought/hoped that this year RAAM would be close (an exciting Chew style win), but Larsen had different plans to annihilate the field Fasching style - making a Fasching Statement.  If Larsen can?t race directly against Fasching, he will have to chase after Fasching?s RAAM average speeds (Like Penseyres did with Boyer in 1986).  I have wondered for a long time who the next American RAAM legend would be after Kish and I (The last American to win RAAM other than Kish and I was Bob Fourney in 1991) and perhaps I am seeing the answer to my question unfold before my very own eyes.  

Before going to sleep on Wednesday night, I got the devastating news of Team Vail?s Brett Malin?s tragic accident.  I have always known about the dangers of night riding on the open highways of America.  I can remember Chew Crew?s yelling at me to stop drifting out towards the yellow line with trucks barreling past me within feet.  While the logical thing to do is get off the bike and sleep, wanting to win RAAM forces you to push far beyond the envelope.  In the 1986 RAAM, 1987 winner Mike Secrest said that sooner or later somebody is going to get killed on RAAM.  Despite very hard work by race officials to keep the race as safe as possible, risks are part of any endeavor as extreme as RAAM.  My deepest sympathy goes out to Brett?s teammates, family, and crew.  

Rebecca Smith is riding well staying ahead of 3 solo men.  

Day 4 - June 18th

The OLN film crew and I awoke on Wednesday morning waiting to hear the decision race officials would make concerning the death of Team Vail?s Brett Malin the night before.  I agreed with their call to keep the race going through the darkest incident in the events 22 year history.  I just hope it doesn?t create news headlines which dwarf the final results in Atlantic City.  Today we started at the front of the race with leader Larsen, worked back and forth across TX and OK back to see the leading (inherited by Team Vail?s tragedy and DNF) Team Harreither/VAV pass a stopped (taking a 15 minute power nap) Valsesia at time station # 18 in Tucumcari, and finally went back to the front of the race near Wichita, KS.

We had to drive 165 miles and 3 time stations from Tucumcari to catch up to leader Allen Larsen just before time station # 21 in Guymon, OK (the most often RAAM-visited city: 6 of my 8 RAAM?s went thru there) where he stopped for 5 minutes for a sit down massage and to add more lubricant to his rear end.  After only 3 minutes, he asked for time.  This is no longer Allen Larsen the rookie who squandered away so much time stopping last year, but a veteran who now knows how important it is to stay on the bike.  He has already had 10 flat tires, and told me he felt he wasn?t really here doing this amazing ride during an on the bike interview.  After 3 days, his crew told me he was ready for some solid food - ordering him up a pizza.  I saw no signs of the neck troubles he had last year, but the race is less than half over.  Averaging 15.3 mph, Larsen has ridden 1,101 miles in the first 72 hours:

First Day -       393 miles
Second Day -  324 miles
Third Day -     384 miles

Some of the crews I spoke with had still not informed their riders of the Malin tragedy, not wanting to distract their rider?s focus.  Biasiolo, Kish, and Baloh are grouped together some 8-10 hours behind Larsen.  Asking about Fabio?s race number showing up on Fredi Virag?s support vehicle, I learned that DNFed Virag and his crew have joined along on Fabio?s crew for the rest of the race.  Fredi is returning the favor to Fabio who after DNFing last year joined Virag?s crew helping him to a 5th place finish.  Fairly easy to do when you start out with a small crew of 4 like Fredi did this year.  This is not the only example of comradery in the race.  Terry Lansdell told me that he was happy to give the bottom bracket out of his spare bike to Jure Robic to install on his primary bike which he has been unable to use.  

An evening sleep break dropped Baloh off of the Kish/Fabio pace.  He is battling saddle sores, and a crew member of his asked me about a certain salve medication they wanted to use on Baloh - wanted to make sure it was legal.  Over 1,000 miles into the race, Mark Patten has yet to take a full sleep break.  He would like to make it all the way to Atlantic City without one if possible, but I doubt he can do it since it has never been done before.  Last night he rode thru a hailstorm that left 3? of white, wet, cold marble sized pellets on the grass and road. Just after the historic old Route 66 commemorative marker in Tucumcari, the lead 4x Team Harreither/VAV passed stopped Valsesia (taking a 15 minute power nap) the 9th place solo rider.  

At time station # 21 in Guymon, OK, long time RAAM fan Jack Mathis proudly showed me his RAAM photo album or riders going thru his hometown over the years.  Included was Susan Notorangelo in her 1989 Kish beating RAAM victory.  The solo race is now stretched out over 24 hours making it extremely difficult for the OLN film crew and I to see all the riders in the same day.  

Day 5 - June 19th

After riding 1,250 miles, it appears that Mark Patten finally slept for the first time for about 2 hours somewhere between Meade and Bucklin, KS.  Nobody has ever done the entire race on no sleep.  Sleep is very much needed on RAAM to make you ride faster on the bike.  A fine balance is needed concerning the ideal amount of sleep for each individual rider.  Every moment spend off of the bike makes you faster/stronger on it.    

Averaging 14.7 mph, leader Allen Larsen has ridden 1,765 miles in the first 5 days.  

First Day -       393 miles
Second Day -  324 miles
Third Day -     384 miles
Fourth Day --  370 miles
Fifth Day --     294 miles

On Thursday and Friday during the day Larsen took sleep breaks, but he is still increasing his lead to over 15 hours on 2nd place Rob Kish.  By about the halfway point, Larsen has begun to use an Easy Seat - although extremely uncomfortable, this double-cheeked seat makes contact with different areas than a regular seat does.  He had also begun using a similar device he used last year to hold his neck up.  On late Thursday night/early Friday morning, I rode along with Larsen and crew from time station 30 (Camdenton) to 31 (Jefferson City).  He told me he has had 12 flat tires so far.  He tried to change his seat height himself while riding, but had to stop to do it.  Crew mechanic Jim (a math teacher) had Allen crunching numbers about when the lead team would catch him in order to make sure that Allen was still coherent.  Like myself, Allen is a very talkative RAAM rider.  He uses a Motorola walkie talkie system to communicate with his crew.  If he goes for a long period without talking, you know he is in trouble.  In order to conserve my energy on RAAM, I tried to make sure that my Chew Crew did 95% of the talking (a very difficult thing for a blabber mouth like myself to do).  I had them ask me questions I could answer yes or no to.     

Having told his crew that he wanted to improve on the time he spent off the bike last year, Larsen?s crew placed their RV out ahead of him forcing him to ride through the night past Lake of the Ozarks and through Jefferson City before rush hour traffic started.  Once, his speed slowed to a crawl, and he rode off the shoulder catching himself on the guardrail.  After this his crew tried to get him to take a brief sleep stop in the follow van, but this made him angry and he rode on increasing his speed.  This type of battle back and forth between rider and crew is all too familiar on RAAM.  Allen finally made it through Downtown Jefferson City and across the Missouri River onto Route 94 East just as rush hour traffic was starting to pick up.  His reward, a much deserved sleep break at 7:30 in a gravel parking lot with loud trucks being moved.  Larsen was wise to ride through the heavily trafficked Lake of the Ozarks area in the wee hours of the morning and thru sunrise.  We drove that section of the route in the afternoon when traffic was horrendous.  I saw firsthand just how stressful crewing can be during a riders lowest periods.  Despite feeling so lousy, Larsen still managed to average 14.4 mph for the 57 mile stretch.  What we are seeing here is a very determined man willing to dig extremely deep to satisfy his hunger for a RAAM victory.  I think a big part of winning RAAM is being hungrier than your competition.

During Larsen?s sleep break 3.6 miles beyond time station #31 in Jefferson City, the lead 4x man Team Harreither/VAV passed.  It took the lead teams some 1,167 miles and 2.5 days to go completely through the solo field from Eastern AZ to central MO.   

Except for the last time station (the finish line), time station #33 in Orchard Farm, MO is perhaps the best-manned station on the entire RAAM route.  I met 4 people there who are going to camp out in their RV over the next 2-3 days to greet RAAM riders and crews.  Though I did not stop at time station #8 in classic Jerome, AZ where the person running it baked chocolate chip muffins to give out.  About 30 kilometers before time station #33, the route goes through St. Peters, MO where Rick Ashabranner grew up and his parents still live.  He plans to eat a home cooked meal and take a sleep break there.  6?5? tall Rick would feel very short next to the world?s tallest ever man 8?11? tall Robert Wadlow (1918 - 1940) who lived in Alton, IL where the riders cross the Mississippi River and where I am staying in a motel room tonight.  Everything is relative.  Similarly, RAAM totally dwarfs shorter events like 500 mile or so RAAM qualifiers.  What would an average American citizen find harder to believe?  That a man could be nearly 9 feet tall or that a person could pedal their bicycle all the way across the country in less than 9 days?      

Day 6 - June 20th

Averaging 14.4mph, leader Allen Larsen has ridden 2,077 miles in the first 6 days.  

First Day -       393 miles
Second Day -  324 miles
Third Day -     384 miles
Fourth Day --  370 miles
Fifth Day --      294 miles
Sixth Day --     312 miles

As of Troy, OH, Larsen?s average speed has dropped to 14.155 mph.  This pace would give him a finishing time of 8 Days, 14 Hours, 26 Minutes on the 2,922 mile course.  This would put him at the finish line in Atlantic City around Midnight Monday night.  Riders must finish within 12 Days, 2 Hours to be considered official finishers.  This gives an average speed of 10.076 mph.  Paul Bonds has fallen below this at 9.90 mph.  Rebecca Smith is right on the edge with her 10.10 mph.  Attila Kaldi is above this at 10.30 mph.  Riders no longer have to curse out the winner?s time (used to have to finish within 48 hours) as they monitor their progress East.  

Last place rider Paul Bonds passed thru time station #29 in Fort Scott, KS some 54 hours and 42 minutes after leader Larsen.  Fabio Biasiolo has dropped out of his 3rd consecutive RAAM.  Riding in 3rd place, kidney problems caused him to bloat up and quit just after time station #31 in Jefferson City, MO.  This moved first rookie rider Robic into 3rd place.  Rick Ashabranner has been passing people and is currently in 6th place.  He had inner tubes wrapped around his knees.  Passing thru St. Peters, MO, the course was just a few miles North of where he grew up.  I was there to see his parents (Cecil & Barbara), sister Rebecca, and nephew Brendan greet him on the side of the road.  After a brief 2-3 minute stop, Rick realized how the clock never stops on RAAM (until the finish line) and rode away.  

I saw a rider cluster go thru time station #33 in Orchard Farm, MO.  Riding in 6th - 8th positions, Rick Ashabranner, Dino Nico Valsesia, Terry Lansdell, and Isk Makk were with 76 minutes of each other.  It is very rare to see such large number of riders so close together so late in the race.  When Terry Lansdell asked me ?How do I get faster on the 6th day of RAAM?? before the race started, I told him to make sure he was close to other riders he could compete against.  Looks like Terry listened to me.  During a stop at that time station, Ish Makk told me that this cluster of riders faced strong headwinds in Kansas where they also rode thru fires on Thursday that blackened their faces with sot.  

The OLN film crew and I shot the 2 person teams as they rode thru Alton, IL just after crossing the Mississippi River (where the race begins).  Despite having 4 hours of down time (stopped - having no rider moving along the road) from logistical problems, Team Goodwin - Rieper is leading Team Epic racing by about 2 hours.  Team Epic?s Robert Zieber told me their team had 2 hours of down time while he spent 5 hours in an emergency room from dehydration in the CA desert heat.  Oddly enough the doctor who rejuvenated him there did Team RAAM in 1996.  

Riders I have talked to tell me they have had many flat tires from poor shoulders on the roads.  What goes thru a rider?s head after crossing the Mississippi River with just over 1,000 miles to go?  Is this race ever going to end?  I am exhausted and still have such a very long way to ride.  I have already put in an investment of riding two thirds of the way across the country, so I should certainly be able to do the final third of the race.  I was just thinking about how rare it was to have only one DNF in the race thus far, when I heard of poor Fabio?s misfortune.  He has now finished just 3 (5th in 1998 & 1999 and 3rd in 2000) out of 8 RAAM?s.        

Day 7 - June 21st

After spending two nights at the Mississippi River in Alton, IL, to shoot the first 9 solo riders, the OLN film crew and I had to drive 550 miles today (Sunday) on Interstate Highways to catch up with leader Allen Larsen at the Ohio River in Parkersburg, WV.  We will have driven some 5,000 miles by the time we reach Atlantic City tomorrow night.  Not seeing Mark Patten?s update on the RAAM website for so long this morning had me worried that he may have dropped out, but it turns out he took 13 hours to cover the 52.4 miles between time stations 32 and 33 meaning that he slept for close to 8 hours.  Since he sees having to stop and sleep a weakness in the race, sleeping so long must have crushed him.  In fact, RAAM riders should savor their sleep since it is that sleep which will make them faster while on the bike.  Patten?s plan to do the entire race on no sleep was impossible, and now he was making up for his first 1,250 sleepless miles.  It is fairly common for riders to take a long sleep break close to halfway through the race as Dino Nico Valsesia also did.  

We finally caught up with Larsen on a sleep break at time station 44 in Parkersburg, WV.  His crew told me he is now up to 15 flat tires for the race, which just may be a RAAM record?  Last night around Effingham, IL, he rode with 3 of the Team Arete Racing guys for about 20 miles when they caught them - picking up his spirits.  I let Larsen?s crew take showers and sleep in my motel room as he was sleeping in his RV.  I rode in Larsen?s follow vehicle for about 25 miles as he began climbing the beautiful green hills (soon to become mountains) of West Virginia.  I was reminded of the time I rode alongside Lon Haldeman for 120 miles on his way to winning the very first RAAM (called the Great American Bike Race [GABR]) back in 1982.  Kish is the only rider in this year?s race who has raced RAAM through West Virginia back in the 1980?s.  Larsen?s crew told me that they are much more stressed out this year because of Allen?s more serious attitude as compared with just wanting to finish last year as a rookie.  Even though he has a huge time gap (12-15 hours) on Rob Kish, Larsen is still worried about Kish catching him regardless of how reassuring his crew is to him.

Averaging 13.98mph, leader Allen Larsen has ridden 2,348 miles in the first week of RAAM

First Day --       393 miles
Second Day -  324 miles
Third Day -     384 miles
Fourth Day --  370 miles
Fifth Day --     294 miles
Sixth Day --     312 miles
Seventh Day - 271 miles

For serious RAAM contenders (winners), any day less than 300 miles is bad.  You can still win with a few bad days, but forget about Pete Penseyres? 15.4 mph average speed record.  He rode over 800 miles his first two days that year.  Allen?s goal now is to finish in less than 9 days.  With such a big lead over Kish, Larsen has the luxury to play around with how getting more sleep affects his on the bike speed.  It seems so many RAAM riders just accept plodding along at mostly slow speeds because they are afraid to take a full 3 hours of sleep per night.  Now that Allen is getting more sleep, he feels much better and faster on the bike.  

I know all to well the difference in a relaxed RAAM finish (no riders are anywhere near you) to a stressed out close finish because you are within and hour or less of another rider.  This reminds riders that they are in the Race Across America and not just the ride across America.  Such close finishes this year will be contested by the tightly clustered field from 3rd place Robic thru 9th place Valsesia which are within about 6-7 hours of each other.  Perhaps we will be treated to a sprint finish between some of these riders.  Crew will be stressed out the final night strategizing how to advance their rider that extra place.  

There are also some very tight races in the different categories of teams.  Even though they might be in different team categories, if they have been close the whole way across the country, I am sure they would like to end up ahead of their rivals.  The first riders to finish this year?s race are on Team Harreither/VAV which finished Sunday night at 22:13 in Atlantic City.  While Team Insight was ahead of Team HydroCharge early in the race, Team HydroCharge has been leading Team Insight later in the race with a very small time margin however, HydroCharge recently pulled away from Insight, and now have a 1:22 lead over Insight at time station 52 with just 109 miles to go.  Team Grupo Guapo increased their lead from 6 minutes to 25 minutes over Team Rieper/Goodwin from time station 44 to 45.  At time station 48, just 51 minutes separate Team FOI from Team Power of Mind.

Day 8 - June 22nd

Averaging 13.54mph, leader Allen Larsen has ridden 2,600 miles in the first 8 days.

First Day --       393 miles
Second Day -  324 miles
Third Day -     384 miles
Fourth Day --   370 miles
Fifth Day --      294 miles
Sixth Day --      312 miles
Seventh Day - 271 miles
Eighth Day --   252 miles

Since the leaders in the solo and 4x team races have such a big lead, the real races are for those hard fought farther back places.  The closest a male solo race has ever been between 1st and 2nd place was back in 1992 when Rob Kish beat Bob Fourney by a mere 48 minutes, but the time gaps between farther back finishers have been much closer.  In the 1984 RAAM, The women?s race finished in a tie between Pat Hines and Shelby Hayden-Clifton.  In the 1985 RAAM, unofficial finisher Rom Templin beat Jim Penseyres by 13 minutes.  In the 1987 RAAM, 13th place Jim Penseyres beat David Walls by just 4 minutes.  In the 1989 RAAM, 3rd place Bob Breedlove beat Peter Kosche by 9 minutes.  In the 1992 RAAM, 7th place Pat Ward beat Ed Kross by 11 minutes.  In the 1995 RAAM, Beat Gfeller beat George Thomas by 15 minutes.  In the 1996 RAAM, UMCA Magazine Editor John Hughes beat German Rudiger Dittmann by 15 minutes.     

The OLN film crew and I drove back thru Athens, OH to shoot mid packers for the last time.  In the battle for rookie of the year, 4th place Knaus closed to within 11 minutes of 3rd place Robic at time station # 44 in Parkersburg, WV.  We got great footage of Rick Ashabranner riding with Marko Baloh thru rolling hills before Athens.  Looking strong, Rick had caught Baloh who then stopped for sleep in Athens.  Riding in 7th place, Terry Lansdell?s spirits were lifted near Athens where Jeff (Bubba) Stevens [heaviest man to finish RAAM in 2001] was sitting shotgun seat in Terry?s follow vehicle, and Terry?s buddy from Charlotte, NC was leap frogging him on a motorcycle.  7th place was as far back we could go and still be sure of catching back up with Larsen in time to see his finish.  

We caught up with 2nd place Rob Kish on beautiful mountainous US Rt. 50 in West Virginia where I was flooded with memories of riding alongside leader Lon Haldeman in the very first RAAM - the Great America Bike Race won by Haldeman in 1982.  Kish is the only rider in RAAM this year who has previous RAAM experience (87, 88, 89) riding this stretch of road.  US Rt. 50 passed thru Bridgeport, WV where I rode my half millionth lifetime mile in 2001.  My mileage has been stopped at 535,000 during RAAM.  

After nightfall on Monday evening in Pennsylvania, we caught up with the two 2 Man Teams putting on an awesome display for us.  Closing a 2 hour gap in 24 hours, Team Epic caught and passed their rival Team Rieper/Goodwin near the MD/PA state line.  We caught solo race leader Allen Larsen in PA with about 150 miles to go.  He said that while he liked the night riding on the early days of RAAM, now he dreaded it.  He had become tired of riding (understandable) and just wanted the race to be over.  We zoomed on ahead to Atlantic City hoping to get a few hours of sleep before Larsen?s finish on Tuesday morning.  

There is a known saying amongst RAAM riders that ?The race doesn?t start until the Mississippi River.?  Well poor Rebecca Smith never got to see this point in the race as she dropped out (because of water retention - same reason as Fabio) just before the MS River at time station #33 in Orchard Farm, MO.  She was in last place riding within an hour of last solo male Paul Bonds.  I hope that she did not let the 12 Day, 2 Hour time limit for official finisher status (her average speed had fallen below the 10.1 mph minimum) make her decision as the RAAM Women?s 50+ record set by Bonnie Allison in the 1992 RAAM is 14D, 7H, 27M.        

 Day 9 - June 23rd

Allen Larsen has won the 2003 RAAM in 8 Days, 23 Hours, 36 Minutes on a 2,922 mile course giving him an average speed of 13.55 mph.  His 24 hour splits are:

First Day --       393 miles
Second Day -  324 miles
Third Day -     384 miles
Fourth Day --  370 miles
Fifth Day --     294 miles
Sixth Day --     312 miles
Seventh Day - 271 miles
Eighth Day --  252 miles
Ninth Day --   322 miles

Larsen becomes the 13th man to win RAAM, and the 15th man to go under 9 days on a solo transcontinental crossing by bicycle.  Here is a list of all of the men to go sub 9 day:

Pete Penseyres - 1986 (15.4 mph average speed record)
Paul Solon - 1989
Mike Secrest - 1989, 1990 (under 8 days outside of RAAM)
Bob Fourney - 1990, 1991, 1992
Rob Kish - 1990, 1991, 1992, 1994, 1995, 1996, 1998  
Gerry Tatrai - 1992, 1993, 1996, 1998, 1999
Rick Kent - 1992
Dave Kees - 1992
Bob Breedlove - 1994
Pat Ward - 1994
Danny Chew - 1996, 1998, 1999
Wolfgang Fasching - 1996, 1998, 1999, 2000  
Andreas Clavadetscher - 1999
Fabio Biasiolo - 1999
Allen Larsen - 2003

After taking the lead from Marko Baloh the first night in Southwestern Arizona, Larsen held and increased it throughout the entire country.  His original goal was to win and break Pete Penseyres 15.4 mph average speed record, but after he had to start wearing his neck brace at halfway, he knew the speed record was out.  Being such a competitive person, Larsen found it difficult to stay motivated once he had such a huge time margin on 2nd place.  His new goal was to win and go under 9 days which he accomplished.  I was on stage at the finish line to pass the torch on to the newest American RAAM champion since my 1999 win.  Going from 3rd place rookie of the year to victory equals Fasching in 1996 & 1997, and Spilauer in 1987 & 1988.  Only once has a better first two year RAAM performance occurred.  Record speed holder Penseyres? 2nd place rookie of the year to victory in 1983 & 1984.  John Howard (2nd in 1982) and Jonathon ?Jock? Boyer (first in 1985) placed higher than Larsen their rookie years, but never RAAMed again.  


After battling each other across the country (always within 90 minutes of each other), 4x mixed Team Hydro Charge (with two women) finally pulled away from 8x corporate Team Insight (with one woman) for good at time station #38 in Indianapolis, IN - finishing 59 minutes ahead.   In the 4x man Team race, Team F.O.I. and Team Power of Mind changed leads at least 8 (studying time station data) different times staying within an hour of each other until the end when F.O.I. came out on top by 64 minutes.  Team Power of Mind?s Karl Power crashed at time station #40 in Troy OH causing him to sit out of rotation for a day.  Perhaps the most dramatic team race was the 2x man team event between Goodwin-Rieper and Epic Racing.  Starting in CA, G/R built a maximum lead of 6:20 over Epic by time station #10 in Heber, AZ.  Chasing G/R most of the way across the country, Epic finally caught G/R on the evening of the final night at the MD/PA state line.  After exchanging leads, G/R pulled away from Epic.  Shortly after this, Epic?s Robert Zieber crashed.  The intensity/excitement was so high that both teams were issued 15 minute penalties.  Usually when a solo racer passes another solo racer so close to the finish line, the passed rider is so demoralized (broken mentally) that they give up, but I guess these rules do not apply in Team RAAM.  Beaten, Epic finally stopped for a 3 hour sleep break before riding into Atlantic City.  R/G had been ahead of and very close to 4x mixed Team Grupo Guapo (actually a 3 person team with one woman) the entire way across the country - nearly catching them again at the very end.    

 Day 10 - June 24th

Mark Patten dropped out again after time station #38 in Indianapolis while in 13th place with no reason given.  Seems like his plan to ride without sleeping (he rode the first 1,250 miles without it) finally caught up with him in spite of taking an 8 hour sleep break in MO.  Being a competitor wanting to win, merely finishing means little to Mark.  He now has 3 DNF?s in 6 RAAM?s.  Rookie Marko Baloh dropped out after time station #44 in Parkersburg, WV while in 7th place with chest pains.  He had been experiencing severe saddle sores, and had just been caught and dropped by Rick Ashabranner in Athens, OH.  While climbing the mountains of West Virginia at dusk, Terry Lansdell came upon a stopped Baloh in Ellenboro.  Terry stopped and had his back-up crew wait with Baloh while they called 911 for an ambulance that drove Baloh to a hospital in Parkersburg where he dropped out.  I am surprised that only 2 out of the 5 people to drop out were rookies.    

Over 15 hours passed before the next rider finished after Allen Larsen - giving him plenty of time to get a shower, eat some real food, and get some much needed sleep.  Because of Larsen?s dominant win, the excitement in this years RAAM are for places farther back.  Rookie Jure Robic went from riding around Knaus in Ohio to Kish in PA.  With 100 miles to go, Robic smoked by Rob Kish stealing 2nd place which Kish had held for some 1,700 miles since the NM/TX border.  Despite having slept only 30 minutes in the last 30 hours versus Kish sleeping 2.5 hours, Robic posted a very impressive average speed of 20.1 mph (62 miles between time stations 52 & 53 in PA) compared to Kish's 16.17 mph.  By the finish line, Robic was 101 minutes ahead of Kish.  Robic was rookie of the year, 2nd place, and won both primes (John Howard challenge to El Centro, CA, and first rookie to Pie Town time station - Baloh reached it first, but did not finish to collect it).  A rookie has not finished 2nd since Pete Penseyres way back in 1983.  Jonathon 'Jock' Boyer was the only rookie to ever win RAAM, but he had previously placed 12th in the Tour de France.  Robic had no mechanic on his crew. Marko Baloh's mechanic installed Terry Lansdell's bottom bracket in Jure's primary bike.  Robic told me he slept a total of 10 hours the entire race (Fasching-like) which led to hallucinations.  

48 year old Rob Kish finished his 18th RAAM in 3rd place.  This is his 12th top 3 finish!  Rob & Brenda told me that the section of route on US Rt. 30 thru York, PA (150 miles left) has some of the worst traffic they have ever seen on RAAM's.  Heavy truck traffic forced Rob onto a poor shoulder and had Brenda Kish at wit's end.

4th place Marcel Knaus finished only 16 minutes after Kish.  Knaus was gaining on Kish, but ran out of America to catch him.  Kish must have really felt the heat of Robic and Knaus breathing down his back.  Kish is not used to having so many riders so close to him at the end of RAAM.  Such close finishes can be extremely exciting and stressful on riders and their crews.  A brutal reminder that they are in the RACE Across AMerica and not just a ride across the country.  

Many rider position changes happen on RAAM which time station data doesn't show.  At time station #47 in Gormania, WV, Robic checked in 48 minutes before Knaus did.  Robic stopped for a short sleep break at the time station during which time Knaus checked in just as Robic was mounting his bike.  Knaus attacked Robic who then counter attacked and dropped Knaus.  This position change never could be determined by looking at time station info.  

9 miles out (before the finish line in Atlantic City), rider's finishing positions and official times are determined so that the final police escort thru traffic to the finish line is done safely.  

                Day 11 - June 25th

6 hours and 5 minutes after Knaus finished, Rick Ashabranner reached the Atlantic City boardwalk completing his first RAAM in 5th place.  Rick was the highest placed finisher who was not considered a pre-race favorite.  Starting at the back of the field (as far back as 15th place) in CA, Rick steadily worked his way up towards the front gaining motivation and momentum with every rider he caught and passed.  Amazingly, Rick was able to improve his cumulative average speed (Cassie Lowe-like) the 2nd half of the race.  Halfway at time station #26 in El Dorado, KS, Rick's average speed was 11.93 mph.  At the finish line, it was 12.24 mph.  An increase of 0.31 mph despite compounded fatigue and tiredness.  Rick seemed to have the most fun and best attitude of any rider I saw out there.  Starting on day 2, his massage therapist/nurse Judith Jolly tied inner tubes around his knees to provide tendon support since Rick pushes such huge gears (an 11 cog on rear wheels).  

53 minutes after Rick, Dino Nico Valsesia finished in 6th place.  The bicycle mechanic took two long 3 hour sleep breaks on the 4th and 7th days.  The rest of the time he relied on 15 minute power naps.   

Southern gentleman Terry Lansdell finished 7th in his 4th RAAM in 10:03:18 - avenging a DNF in 2001 with his highest place and best time.  This year is extra special for Terry because in his mind it is his first official finish: within 48 hours of the winner's time - with over 20 hours to spare.  Now he will proudly wear the RAAM ring he rightfully earned!  His black eye was caused when he shut his eyes for too long and crashed onto a gravel shoulder at a construction site in Missouri.  

Arriving to a huge crowd at the awards banquet on the boardwalk, 8th place Martin Lorenz was the last rider to finish within the old 48 hour cut-off rule.  At the awards banquet, Terry Lansdell received the Ian Sandbach Inspirational Award for continuing after his crash, and his generosity to other riders: Giving the bottom bracket out of his spare bike to Jure Robic and calling 911 to get Marko Baloh (with chest pains) to the hospital in Parkersburg.  Surviving members of Team Vail/Go Fast attended the banquet to do a tribute to their lost team mate Brett Malin, and promised to return next year to go even faster in memory of Brett.  

Liquid Blue took to the stage pumping out songs which Team Ride to Remember's Mary Boris and I danced to.   

                Day 12 - June 26th

Avenging a DNF last year, Ish Makk finished in 9th place in 11:02:32 arriving on the boardwalk with a brace on his right thigh.  After he pulled a muscle in Athens, OH, he pedaled the last 515 miles "one legged".  This led to two 5 hour sleep breaks on the trek towards Atlantic City.  Ish's pupil Rick Ashabranner (was on Makk's 2002 RAAM crew) beat his teacher this year.  The two talked while riding together in CA and in Martinsville, IL where the thundering sound of automobile racing on a track occurred.  After watching Ish drop out of the 2002 RAAM, it was an emotional moment for Rick (he was there with his crew on the boardwalk) to see his teacher finally finish such a difficult event.

The only finisher on June 26th, Makk was the most isolated rider to reach Atlantic City - finishing 17:08 behind Martin Lorenz and 12:05 ahead of 10th place Keith Krombel who avenged a 2001 DNF with just 333 miles to go.  Even though his time this year was slower than he rode in 1999 and 2000, his placing was higher [15th place both years].  Riding so close to home thru Maryland on known roads was extra special for Virginian Krombel.  

Spurred on by competition, the last 3 riders increased their speeds to all make it to Atlantic City [within 3 hours of each other] by the Friday, June 27th deadline for official finisher status.  54 year old Paul Bonds blitzed the last 200 miles passing Attila Kaldi and Beny Furrer to finish 11th.  Riding in memory of his daughter Jennifer [at age 14, struck and killed by a motorist last year in front of Paul's eyes] and awareness of the many preventable deaths caused by motor vehicles, Bonds never wanted to quit.  The pain he felt in RAAM wasn't even close to what he went thru losing Jennifer.  A former US Marine Corp Pilot, Bonds told me "Pain is the weakness leaving your body."  To promote his cause, Paul stopped along the route for TV and press interviews.  He also stopped at every [about 150] roadside memorial cross [denoting another senseless motorist caused death] to pay tribute, and picked up turtles off the road to safety - some of which his crew kept in their RV.  He spent about 48 hours off of his bicycles.  

After Bonds' crew heard of Brett Malin's tragic death ahead of Paul, his crew stopped and held him for an hour to shield him from the scene.  When Bonds resumed riding and came upon the accident scene, he had to stop [for about 1.5 hours] despite his crew telling him not to.  

Before I declare Jerome, AZ or Orchard Farm, MO the best time stations, perhaps I should mention time station #51 in Spring Grove, PA.  It was organized by Max Heebner and Keith Krout of the Hanover Cyclers club.  The OLN film crew and I drove thru there at night tracking 2x Team Epic Racing, and did not have time to stop if we were to make it to Atlantic City before leader Allen Larsen.  Bonds stopped there for about 2 hours for an interview and so did Larsen for a shorter time.  Bonds told me that his heart rate never got above 140 beats per minutes until battling it out with Beny Furrer at the end of the race when it reached 160.  Bonds had a very emotional finish in Atlantic City where emcee Scott Johnson help up a big photo of Jennifer and asked for a moment of silence for her.  

Shortly after Bonds, one armed Swiss rider Beny Furrer avenged his 1996 DNF by finishing 12 place with his right knee wrapped in a brace.  Finishing too late [after the awards banquet] to be considered for the Ian Sandbach Inspiration Award, heroic Furrer prefers climbing over flat terrain, and has twice finished the very mountainous Race Across the Alps [RATA].  By the end of the race, Furrer had mastered the one handed clap I taught him at the start in San Diego.  

The last place finisher in the 2003 Race Across AMerica was Hungarian Attila Kaldi in 13th place with just 43 minutes to spare for official finisher status.  Lon Haldeman and I were impressed with the retro bike he used.  It had no aerobars, many spoked wheels with non-aero rims[old box style], and down tube shift levers.  His lowest gear was a 42x23.  Kaldi was very impressed with 54 year old Rebecca Smith's strength and speed as she was ahead of him early in the race before her DNF.  The 1994 World Champion 4x Ironman [a triathlon 4 times the Ironman distance], Kaldi had one 4 hour sleep break and slept 3 hours the rest of the nights.  The first day in California, he went off the route and lost about 3 hours.  

At the beginning of the race, I said that Fredi Virag had the smallest crew with 4 people in one minivan, but I stand corrected.  Kaldi only had a 3 person crew in one minivan - the absolute minimum crew allowed by RAAM rules.  One person drove while another navigated and the third slept.  Not relying on motels, Kaldi and his crew slept on the ground in sleeping bags.  Upon hearing about similar behavior of RAAM riders, well financed 1985 RAAM winner Jock Boyer said, "This is America, we are not cavemen." captured by an ABC Wide World of Sports camera crew.  Kaldi had about 12 flat tires.  After about a week, his small crew had to begin patching inner tubes.  The beauty of RAAM is that it can be done on both big budget crews [2003 RAAM official Harold Trease rode RAAM with a 13 person crew] and small budget crews [Michael Trail placed 2nd in the 1987 RAAM using only a 2 person crew in a pick-up truck].

Once when Paul Bonds' crew separated from him, Kaldi's crew looked after and fed Paul.  Perhaps a newspaper headline should read "Paul Bonds with Kaldi" as Paul watched Attila's finish and bonded with him on the boardwalk afterwords.  

Unlike any other bicycle race, RAAM riders seem to have the most compassion and respect for each other after having endured such a brutal, seemingly never-ending endeavor.  Seana Hogan once described RAAM an "Emotional Roller coaster" and I refer to it as tiredness beyond belief.  Over the course of 2,922 miles, every RAAM cyclists' bicycles transform from objects of pleasure to instruments of torture and vice-versa countless times giving the persevering RAAM finisher tremendous character depth and Insight.    

Rob Kish's RAAM Average Placings and Finishing Times:  

Year   Place   Finishing Time in Days: Hrs: Min

1985     8         11:12:19
1987     5         10:09:45
1988     5         10:01:16
1989     8          9:11:53
1990     2          8:12:37
1991     2          8:20:32
1992     1          8:03:11
1993     2          9:13:08
1994     1          8:14:25
1995     1          8:19:59
1996     2          8:10:00
1997     3          9:13:13
1998     3          8:20:22
1999     8          9:10:56
2000     6         10:02:30
2001     2          9:21:18
2002     2          9:17:35
2003     3          9:16:29

Avg:     3.556    9:10:11

AVG RAAM PLACING: Fasching: 1.6667, Chew: 2.375, Kish: 3.556
AVG RAAM FINISHING TIME: Fasching - 8:17:55, Chew - 9:02:01, Kish - 9:10:11

Danny's comments: These are statistics for solo RAAM riders with 5 or more finishes and no DNF's. I would have liked to have included Gerry Tatrai and Seana Hogan but they both have one DNF. How would I have included their DNF's with a proper justifiable penalty for not finishing? The placing is overall among both solo men and women riders. Rob Kish finished behind 3 women in his 1985 rookie RAAM and behind 1 woman in 1989. In 1997, Peter Pop finished 4th among the men, but 6th overall. Similarly in 2001, Mark Patten finished 4th among the men, but 5th overall.

Rob Kish has the most solo RAAM finishes with 18, and I have the second most with 8. My average finishing place is closer to Fasching's than Kish's, but my average finishing time is closer to Kish's.

PS:  The only America men to beat Rob Kish in RAAM since Bob Fourney did in his 1990 & 1991 wins, are myself in 1996, 1997, 1999, & 2000, Tom Buckley in 2000, and now Allen Larsen in 2003.  

Post-RAAM 2003:  

Solo 2003 RAAM Results Finishing Time Analysis

SOLO 2003 RAAM RESULTS  The first column is finishing time. The second column is the time difference (gap) between two consecutive times. The third colum is the time behind winner Larsen.                         
1    Allen Larsen    8:23:36        @        
2    Jure Robic    9:14:48        15:12        
3    Rob Kish    9:16:29        16:53        
4    Marcel Knaus    9:16:45        17:09        
5    Rick Ashabranner    9:22:50        23:14        
6    DinoNico Valsesia    9:23:43        1:00:07        
7    Terry Lansdell    10:03:18        1:03:42        
8    Martin Lorenz    10:09:24        1:09:48        
    Old 48 Hr Cutoff-----------------------------------    ----------    --------------    ----    -------    
9    Ish Makk    11:02:32        2:02:56        
10    Keith Krombel    11:14:37        2:15:01        
11    Paul Bonds    11:22:21        2:22:45        
12    Beny Furrer    11:23:47        3:00:11        
13    Attila Kaldi    12:01:17        3:01:41        
Only the first 8 riders would have been official finishers using the old 48 hour cut-off rule. The closest finish [smallest time gap] was 16 minutes between 3rd place Kish and 4th place Knaus. The biggest time gap was 17 hours and 8 minutes between 8th place Martin Lorenz and 9th place Ish Makk. Last place finisher Attila Kaldi arrived in Atlantic City more than 3 days after winner Allen Larsen.                        

Cumulative Average Speed Decay

RIDER              CumAvgSpdHalfwy         CumAvgSpdEnd         Change
Larsen                     15.35mph                            13.55mph               -1.80
Robic                      12.95mph                            12.66mph               -0.29
Kish                        13.88mph                            12.57mph               -1.31
Knaus                    12.97mph                            12.55mph               -0.42
Ashabranner        11.93mph                            12.24mph               +0.31
Valsesia                 12.25mph                           12.19mph                -0.06
Lansdell                12.47mph                            12.01mph               -0.46
Lorenz                   12.60mph                            11.71mph               -0.89
Makk                     12.16mph                            10.96mph               -1.20
Krombel                11.00mph                            10.49mph               -0.51
Bonds                     9.84mph                            10.20mph              +0.36
Furrer                   10.74mph                             10.15mph               -0.59
Kaldi                    10.20mph                             10.10mph               -0.10

Posting a so-called negative split [faster 2nd half of race than first half] is VERY RARE in RAAM because of the fatigue, tiredness, and sleep deprivation factors.  Cassie Lowe did it in both of her RAAM's.  This year, only 2 riders were able to do it:  5th place Rick Ashabranner and 11th place Paul Bonds.  The rider with the greatest cumulative average speed decay was winner Allen Larsen riding the 2nd half of the race at an average speed 1.8 mph slower than the first half of the race.  If Larsen had another rider near him pushing him to ride faster, his average speed decay would most likely be smaller.  Kish's average speed decay of 1.3 mph was big for him.  

          MORE NOTES ON THE 2003 RAAM

4 out of the top 6 place finishers were rookies.

Of the 5 DNF's, only 2 were rookies.

4 riders had night time finishes.  

     RAAM Winners' Margin of Victories Table

 Year   Margin of Victory   Who Beat Who
            in Hours:Minutes
1982       14:57         Haldeman beat Howard  
1983         5:33         Haldeman beat Penseyres
1984         5:59         Penseyres beat Haldeman
1985         4:02         Boyer beat Secrest
1986       22:15         Penseyres beat Haldeman
1987         2:18         Secrest beat Trail
1988         8:26        Spilauer beat Templin
1989         4:45        Solon beat Secrest
1990         1:11        Fourney beat Kish
1991         3:48        Fourney beat Kish
1992         0:48        Kish beat Fourney
1993       16:49        Tatrai beat Kish
1994         1:33        Kish beat Breedlove
1995         6:41        Kish beat Chew
1996         2:46        Chew beat Kish
1997         6:40        Fasching beat Chew
1998         6:04        Tatrai beat Fasching
1999         1:17        Chew beat Fasching
2000       21:58        Fasching beat Chew
2001       21:01       Clavadestscher beat Kish
2002       13:57       Fasching beat Kish
2003       15:12       Larsen beat Robic

The smallest margin of victory was Kish's 0:48 win over Fourney in 1992.  The largest margin of victory was Penseyres' 22:15 win over Haldeman in 1986.  

A good indication of just how fast a certain year or route is how many riders go under 9 days.  The record for this was in 1992 and 1999 when 5 riders finished in under 9 days both of these years.  

RAAM Rookie-of-the-Year's Average Speeds Ranked

Rank  Year     Rider     Average Speed
 1.   1985  Boyer                14.31
 2.   1996  Fasching          14.07
 3.   1986  Beerer                13.81
 4.   1994  Chew                 13.40
 5.   1991  Tatrai                 13.34
 6.   1987  Spilauer             13.09
 7.   1989  Brain                  13.03
 8.   1988  Fedrigon            13.02
 9.   1998  Clavedetscher   12.98
10.  2000  Lorenz                12.97
11.  2003  Robic                 12.66
12   1993  MUFFY RITZ   12.49
13.  2002  Larsen               12.41
14.  1995  Weik                 12.39
15.  1984  Elliott                12.29
16.  1992  Kross                12.28
17.  1990  Mumbauer       12.14
18   1999  Saldanha          12.11
19.  1983  Penseyres        12.09
20.  1982  Howard            11.83
21.  2001  Klaus                11.73
22.  1997  Wilson             11.56
23.  1993  Sturtz  {male}  11.20       

This years Rookie-of-the-Year Robic comes in ranked 11th just ahead of woman Muffy Ritz in 12th.

Concerning my previous posting of RAAM Finishing Time Analysis:  Bill Peschka wrote HTML code to display the table, and on e-mail lists it comes out as jibberish.  Please check it thru the RAAM website Chew's Views Post-Race once webmaster Tom Kingsbury has linked it up.   

All Transcontinental solo bike crossings over 14  mph Ranked {Top 21}.  Done on RAAM unless otherwise noted.  
Rank/Year       Rider       Average Speed in mph
 1.  1986  Penseyres                          15.40
 2.  1990  Secrest  [non-RAAM]     15.24
 3.  1992  Kish                                    14.91
 4.  1992  Fourney                             14.85
 5.  1999  Chew                                  14.72
 6.  2000  Fasching                           14.70
 7.  1992  Tatrai                                 14.69
 8.  1999  Fasching                           14.63
 9.  1996  Chew                                 14.58
10. 1989  Solon                                 14.50
11. 1990  Fourney                            14.40
12. 1996  Kish                                  14.38
13. 1990  Kish                                  14.32
14. 1985  Boyer    [Rookie]             14.31
15. 1998  Tatrai                                14.29
16. 1989  Secrest                             14.17
17. 1999  Tatrai                               14.15
18. 1996  Fasching [Rookie]         14.07
19. 1994  Kish                                 14.05
20. 1985  Secrest                            14.05
21. 1991  Fourney                          14.04

Kish has the most 14+ mph average speed crossings with 4.  Fasching has the most recent in 2000.  Every name on the list is a RAAM winner.  The RAAM winners who did not make the list are Haldeman, Spilauer, Clavedetscher, and Larsen.  

         More Notes on the 2003 RAAM

The route was supposed to be fast, but that was only if riders got the prevailing tailwinds they were supposed to have.  Larsen told me he had pretty much no wind most of the way across.  Other solo riders and teams complained of strong headwinds in Kansas.  No average speed records were broken because of this.  

PS:  Can somebody please send me Jim Amelung's current e-mail address.

Danny Chew at: