So it all comes down to this: Race day, all prep is done, all inspections passed, all systems GO! The Chain Gang will line up at the starting line as the LAST TEAM STARTING. Great! That means a lot of rabbits to chase. All eight riders will… leave the starting line together in a “parade start”. After .6mile all but Jerome and Tony will peel off and hop in vans which will skedaddle to a point 23.4 miles from the start line and wait for them. This first part of the course, winding through the hilly suburbs then farmland outside of Oceanside, is totally unsupported; RAAM just can’t allow that much van and bike traffic in this area.
Jerome and Tony are riding together in case Jerome, the lead rider at this point, breaks down, flats, whatever, Tony can continue racing for the Gang without delay. Jerome then Tony will reach that 23.4 mile point where Dave Payne will take over in a “flying exchange”, a full speed swap on the course. Jerome and Tony will hop in the follow van with Lisa Wilson, also on the night crew, and move ahead of Dave to the next exchange point about 5 miles up the road. In RAAM language this is called “Leap Frog Support”. The support vehicle and crew is not allow to follow the rider but must move ahead at normal speeds to spots where they can pull off the road and wait. The vast majority of the Gang’s 3000 miles will be direct support with a vehicle following right behind the rider, but this won’t start until almost 100 miles into the course.
It’ll be the night crew, Jerome, Lisa, Tony and Dave, for the first 12 hours racing. The first 80 miles of the race are hilly, no downright mountainous, climbing Palomar Mtn. (yep, where the telescope is!) before descending 4500 ft. into the desert. When Dave reaches the next exchange point after 5 miles riding Lisa will take over. Lisa will climb to the next point where Tony will take over. The climbing for a while intensifies. Then Dave will exchange with Jerome… and the rotation continues.
We will reach our first Timestation checkpoint at a mountaintop lake, Lake Henshaw. Some flats, some climbing and then Dave will be on the bike as he summits Palomar and descends the glass elevator. This descent is one the more thrilling parts of the entire 3000 mile route, Tony got the call in 2009, Jerome in 2010 and Dave in 2012. A post tomorrow will have video (we hope) of Dave cresting and descending into the desert 250 feet below sea level and more about the balance of the first night crew shift!