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