The Toughest Bicycle Race on the Planet

If you love to travel, can deal with seriously rough levels of sleep deprivation, and enjoy serving, then you are open for amazingly unique opportunities.  Although I do not see myself classifying with all of the above mentioned traits, I seem to get myself aboard with the unique opportunity to ride along with the Race Across America (RAAM) almost yearly! 

Outside magazine voted RAAM the most difficult athletic event.  While the debate could rage on, it certainly is sheer madness!  A very special kind of madness that covers 3000 miles, 170,000 feet of climbing, and crossing 12 states.  There is no other race in the world like it.  RAAM is a nonstop blur!  Once the timer starts, the clock doesn’t stop until racers reach the finish line. 

 Rick Schultze dealing with the Mojave Desert

Many tasks for the crew.  Andre Richison crossing one off the list, above Sedona, AZ

By the time 2013 rolled around, I was on my 5th tour with the RAAM parade.  This year I was on the crew for Team ON/ABB.  A crew is made up of a number of positions, or roles that assist the team rider(s) to cross the country in speedy fashion  The racer just rides, but the crew makes most of the decisions, and must constantly improvise, adjust, and adapt.  It is an adventure that unfolds minute-by-minute, hour-by-hour and mile-by-mile. 

Dave Preston in the magnificant Monument Valley, Utah

The Crew Chief is the CEO, the boss and leader of the team.  They provide the overall direction for the crew and have to be ready to make decisions, even unpopular ones.  They must always think of the racer, and balance with that the crew needs.

The Team ON/ABB crew worked hard to keep Rick Shulze and Dave Preston rolling east.  We started the race in Oceanside, California with 10 crew members.  By the sunrise of the second day, no one was a ‘rookie’ crew member anymore.  Our team consisted of drivers, navigators, a crew chief, a photographer and a bike mechanic.  The note-so-popular roles included sandwich making, fetching water, scrubbing dishes, scurrying to peg requests on the racer’s list, tracking down route changes, were done by any available crew member, at any hour.   

  Matt Hoffman at the base of the dreaded Yarnell Pass, AZ

America the beautiful, is also America with the often searing Mojave Desert, the mountainous Rockies, the wind-swept plains and the steep and rather wicked hills of the Appalachians.

 L to R:  Manny Casillas (crew chief), Rick Schultze (rider), John Wood, Andre Richison and Matt Hoffman

After a tough series of events, Team ON/ABB lost one of its 2 riders, due to possible heat exhaustion.  Through grit, determination, encouragement and dedicated support from the remaining crew, Dave Preston rode the last 450 or so miles solo to the finish line in Annapolis, Maryland.   

  Rolling into a distant gas station in Kansas

Dave generously shared, “Much of RAAM’s spotlight is usually on the racers, but the lion’s share of the heavy lifting to get a racer or team across the finish line is in the hands of the crew.  I am certainly humbled by the dedication the crew had to get our team across the finish.  So thank you crew – you truly taught me some valuable life lessons.”

 Most of the crew at the finish line in Annapolis, MD.  L to R:  John Foote, Adot White, Joe Felder, Manny Casillas, Alan Low, Dave Preston, Denny Preston, Rick Schultze, John Wood.

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