A note from Equipe Schwarz

June 23, 2010

Atlanta, GA

We got to know Charlie, crew chief for the Equipe Schwarz team from Germany, before the race, as we stayed at the same motel in Oceanside. We chased them all through the race, but they beat us by a few hours. This is the kind of friendly rivalry the race fosters and that adds to unique and memorable nature of the whole adventure. Charlie, we wish you well and hope to ride with you again!

“dear all, racers, crew, daves and not daves,
gratulations to your raam result and to the amount of money you collected!
we where waiting for you with ice-cold beer right behind the finish-line, but unfortunatelly my crew was pretty thirsty and we decidet that it would be a shame let the beer warm up.
i`m sorry we don`t meet you wether downtown annapolis nor on the official party, i hope you all are doing all well and you allready stopped crying about the lost battle against our team.
you had the better rider, better bikes and the better crew and the most attractive  crew-captain on raam 2010, for a better performance she just needs a tactical genious by her side. that`s me.
if you are thinking about raam 2011, give me a call, i`m sure travelling with the chaingang is fun.
all the best for you all.
crew captain equipe schwarz”
June 23rd

The Finish Line – 7 Days, 9 Hours, 37 Minutes!

June 20, 2010

Sunday 2:48 am – Annapolis MD

The final 32 hours of RAAM again included many exciting and unexpected moments, with the team and crew rising to the occasion each time to bring it home. Sorry for the delay, but let us catch you up on all that happened on Day 7 and 8 of the race.

At 5am Saturday morning, near Nutter Fort WV, Frank and Dave rotated into the line-up. The hills and mountains of WV did not disappoint anyone – giving us all the climbing we could handle. But the riders were fresh, the air cool and there was the inspiration of another beautiful sunrise on the back roads of America. While we were out of the running for a win in our age group, we were still racing very closely with the women’s 50-59 team (Team Kalyra), a couple of 8-person teams and the infamous Brazilian team (this year reincarnated as a 4-man <50 team, but with one member of their 2009 team returning). Throughout the morning we exchanged the lead many times with these teams.

By 1:30 pm we reached Cumberland MD and the beginning of the hardest section of the race – 37 miles to Hancock MD. You many wonder how the hardest section could possibly be in Maryland, but it’s true. In that short section there are five 1000′ climbs with grades reaching 22% for long sections. Tony put together an tactically masterful plan to attack this section hard. We staged Jerome, Frank and Tony on each climb to break them up and let the riders push the pace hard. At the top Dave took over and rode a fast descent. Then we’d start over. We finished this section in less than 2.5 hours, passing the women’s team for good and closing the gap substantially on the Brazilians. We’d never even put the crew through such a rapid and complex rotation before, but they executed it perfectly.

After Hancock we rode into Pennsylvania where the rolling hills come at you continuously and very steep. By dusk we were in Gettysburg, riding right through the battlefield park. With no other cars on the road, the gathering darkness and the sacredness of the place, we were all dumbstruck. It was as awe inspiring as anything we’d seen the entire week.

Once we hit Hanover PA at around 10pm, there were only 91 miles to go. At that point, with Dave and Frank having been on the road for 17 hours, the plan was to put them in the RV, and let Tony and Jerome pace line it in together to the end. After an assessment of everyone’s fatigue level, however, we decided to modify the plan. We swapped in a new driver and navigator – Dave Payne and Dave Gluck. We also left all 4 riders in the rotation to make sure we could make extra rider swaps if needed in the last 4-5 hours of the race. This turned out to be a good move as we made several rider exchanges down the final stretch, sometimes putting out two riders at a time, at other times leaving a single rider on the road. We made sure everyone was fresh and awake for what would be the longest ride day for any of the riders.

It was a glorious night, with perfect temps and good roads. The smell of the barn along with much needed boots from Starbucks canned double espressos, kept the riders keyed up and alert all the way to the finish. Time station 54, on the outskirts of Annapolis is where the official race clock is stopped. After logging their time there, teams put all their riders on bikes to be escorted to the final finish at the City Docks where friends and family await. This also ensures that each team has enough time for pictures and time on the podium. We were held back some extra minutes as the Brazilian team was celebrating so hard race officials couldn’t get them to move out of the finish area. Yes, we had failed to catch them in our final push.

What they didn’t know, however, was that we had a 30 minute time credit because race officials had failed to give us a last minute route update, causing us to get lost during the night on Friday. We knew we didn’t need to pass them, just to close the gap enough to get within the 30 minute window and beat them – again. And we did. In spite of the time lost Friday night, we had closed the gap to within 11 minutes of our rivals, so with our credit we beat them easily. Since we weren’t contending for a place at the podium, it wasn’t a big deal, but when 3 teams are within 10 minutes of each other in a 3000 mile race, and those teams are seeing each other regularly along the route, riders and crew alike get pretty competitive.

Many of our families and friends loyally waited up until after 3am to cheer us across the finish line at the docks in Annapolis. We drank champagne and toasted the Brazilians. We cheered the Kalyra women across the line, just like they’d cheered us whenever we rode by on the road. These women set a new 4-woman 50-59 record. We hugged the crew and wondered at how such an intense around the clock experience forges new friendships and cements old ones. The riders are truly indebted to our crew – each and everyone of whom went beyond the call of duty to bring us safely over the finish line AND score a big win in the fight against Leukemia and Lymphoma.

When we say team now, we don’t refer simply to the 4 riders. The Georgia Chain Gang is a team of 14 strong brothers and sisters for life!

Your Georgia Chain Gang,

Tammy Addison, Dave Armento, Warren Bruno, Matthew Corrigan, Jane Eastham ,Mark Engemann, Frank Fuerst, David Gluck, Stephanie Grant, Dave Laws, Tony Myers, Dave Payne, David Rossetti, Jerome Rossetti, Marshall Siler

Greenfield Ohio – 6 Days and 2475 Miles Done – 530 To Go!

June 18, 2010

Friday 5:00 pm – Greenfield OH

At the 6 day mark we reached Greenfield OH for the hand off to Jerome and Tony at 5 pm on Friday. We enjoyed some great riding weather through Indiana and Ohio, through rolling farmland the entire time. We have just 530 miles to the finish. By 5 am Saturday we should be somewhere in West Virginia and ~325 miles away. West Virginia and Western Maryland are the hardest sections of the race so we will modify our rotation to get through without too much pain. Dave and Frank will start their regular rotation at 5. Tony and Jerome, after a short rest, will come back to join us around noon. From that point forward we will use a 4 man rotation – all the way to the end. While it means no bed rest from 5am to the finish, it also means that the climbing load will be spread out among more riders. If all goes to plan we should reach Annapolis sometime between 1am and 3am Sunday morning. It’ll be an exciting 24 hours

For much of the race and right up to today we’ve been seeing several teams regularly throughout the day: T801 – 8 mixed team, T411 (Kalyra) 4-woman team, 50-59, T412 (Race Brazil) 4-man, under 50. We’ll see how everyone holds up on Saturday!

Over the last couple of days we’ve seen a number of solo riders. When I passed on of them I tried to strike up a conversation, but the poor guy was so exhausted he could barely talk to me. His head and helmet were supported by an elaborate neck harness designed to hold his head up. If I ever had a desire to try the solo race it is gone now. If you look at the solo standings you will see the large number of DNFs (did not finish) – in some categories more than 50% are marked that way. It means either the rider dropped out or did not reach one of the cut-off points in time.

Crew and riders on our team have remained cool, calm and collected. We’ve seen other examples where fatigue and sleep deprivation take their toll and the important crew-rider relationship can break down. I watched a rider cuss out a crew member when they got lost on the route. The reason I witnessed this was because we were lost too. Sometimes, in spite of all the planning and preparation, something goes awry with our navigation. You just have to recognize it quickly, figure out how to get back to the point you went off course and then get going again. 

It has been particularly inspiring to see how many people we run into on the road who see our RV, strike up a conversation and then give a donation. Sometimes it’s cash, sometimes a check, sometimes some free stuff. We got a case of ice-cream drumsticks today from the ice-cream man.

Georgia Chain Gang Day Five: Hamel Illinois – 5 Days and 2,064 Miles!

June 17, 2010

Thursday 5:00 pm – Hamel IL

We finished off Kansas and all of Missouri in the last 24 hours. Jerome and Tony started with a night ride in pouring rain, pushing through without a stop. Dave and Frank picked up before dawn south of Jefferson City, finished off Missouri, crossed the Mississippi and handed it back to Jerome and Tony in here in Hamel, Illinois. By early Friday morning we should be in the middle of Indiana and through Ohio by the end of the day Friday. After that we enter WV and Western Maryland – the hardest riding of the race. More and steeper climbing than the Rockies.

Some of you have asked what we eat. As the ride goes on most of us like the sports gels, blocks and drinks less and less, and crave regular food more. The crew makes sure we get a lot of variety, including fruits and vegetables. As an example, here was my meal plan today:

4:30 AM: cereal, bagel
6:30 AM: yogurt
9:00 AM: turkey and cheese sandwich, chocolate milk
11:00 AM: sub, coke
1:00 PM: pizza, coke
3:00 PM: more pizza, 32 ozs Powerade
5:00 PM: 32 oz Powerade, cracked corn, pint of blueberries, strawberries and raspberries
7:00 PM: hamburger, broccoli, soup and salad bar

The next couple of days will be interesting. The team is beginning to smell the barn, but are also tired and sore from 5 days of riding on 3-4 hours daily sleep. Tony is obsessively plotting and predicting our arrival times at the remaining Time Stations, figuring out variations in our rotation schedules to improve our performance. We are doing our best to make our party in Annapolis Saturday night, but also have a party planned for Sunday evening.

A special word of thanks must go out to our crew chiefs, David Payne and Jane Eastham. Dave is driving the Follow Van 12 hours a day, maintaining bikes and providing coaching where needed to the riders. Jane is riding in the Follow Van in the alternate 12 hours. She is also working closely with Tony to forecast our locations every 6 hours for the next 48 in order to find rooms at Holiday Inn for our 4 hours of sleep. I also know that Dave and Frank look forward to seeing her step into the Follow Van every day at 11am as she always brings something good to eat. Dave and Jane, and the whole crew, are always cheerful and positive when dealing with the riders, who can get a little ragged every day (some more than others…).

Pedal on.

Day 4 – Still in Kansas

June 16, 2010

Wednesday 5:00 pm – Yates Center KS

When Dave and Frank handed the baton to Jerome and Tony about 50 miles from Fort Scott on the Missouri border the team had been pedaling through Kansas for 28 hours. The winds blew from the south or head on the entire distance, so we never got the benefit of a any tail wind. On top of that we hit our first rain, lightening and even hale. Some of the solo riders dropped out of the race during this stretch – when they passed through a couple of days before us the weather was even worse. In one town the streets were flooded and riders saw fish, turtles and frogs swimming by their wheels.

Near Wichita KS 2 local TV stations were set up alongside the route and filmed Dave as he raced by. After asking the crew to continually take his photo along the route this just confirmed his reputation as a media star. Some o the crew have take to calling him “Hamento”.

We learned later that the reason the TV crews were on on the route there was because a rider from the Spanish team, COANFI Desafio ASPANOA, had been hit by a car there and seriously injured. We are still rrying to get word on his condition.

Jerome and Tony will be slogging through the Ozarks throughout the night on Wednesday. We should cross over both the Missouri and Mississippi rivers sometime on Thursday. Forecast is for continued scattered thunderstorms along the route.