Day 2 – Done!

June 18, 2012

Day 2 done! – Pagosa Springs CO

What a day! Again Tony, Jerome, Dave and Lisa flew through the night. We day crew riders (Frank, Joe, Jane and Lee) and crew (Bruce, Bridgett,

Amy, Charlie) met up with them around 3:30am (EDT) in Kayenta AZ, which is in the Navajo Indian Reservation in NE Arizona. We road due north

from there to Utah. In the cool of the night we rode around 15 miles each before exchanging with the next rider. This is a very sparsely populated area and at every exchange we had a clear view of the brilliant night sky with the Milky Way blazing across the sky.  At one point an Joe spooked and owl and it flew up and then swooped down on him, missing by just a few feet.

In spite of being over 450 miles from the start at that point there were a dozen teams strung out along the road within 20 miles of each other. We often passed and repassed the same team over and over. We would continue to see these same teams throughout the rest of the day.

When we crossed into Utah it was still pitch dark, with only a sliver of the new moon coming up over the horizon. When sunrise came we were most of the way across Utah and soon entered Colorado. As we climbed in altitude to 6000 and 7000 feet the desert gave way to the green trees and valleys of the Rocky Mountains.

After leaving Durango we had our 2nd flat. The first was on a bike, but this time it was on “Betty” one of our two mini-vans. Charlie jumped into action, changed the flat, got it repaired and had us back on the road within 45 minutes. Jane, Joe and Lee went ahead to keep our riders on the road so we didn’t lose a minute in all that.

Now we had three riders in one van, Frank in the other and the night shift in our Sprinter van all spread out on the road out of Durango with limited cell coverage. But as Jane, Joe and Lee took turns climbing Badger Mtn and then descending into Pagosa Springs it all came back together and we were finally able to pull Jane and her day-shift compadres off their bikes after a 13-hr day. We left the night crew to tackle the highest and longest climb of the whole race – Wolf Creek Pass.




June 18, 2012
Amy & the day crew pushing Frank & day riders through the first assault on the Rockies. They’re attacking Baldy Mtn, the second toughest climb west of the Mississippi on the 2012 RAAM course.
Let’s hear it for these gangers who are climbing this section between Durango and Pagoda Springs @ the end of a 13 hr day.
The night shift is heading in the “Bowen” Springer van along the race course to pic…k up the gauntlet because US160 is the only paved road to travel in these parts! Steve and the night crew with Coach Tony and the night riders will immediately be climbing to Wolf Creek Pass, the highest point on the course & along the western continental divide; luckily on fresh legs.
Everything is clicking away according to plan EXCEPT we’re $41,000 short of our fundraising goal and we’re running out of operating cash. Please click on that DONATE link here or on the webpage. Please pass a link to a friend or family member so they can share in our experience and share in our fight against blood cancers.

Day 1 complete – Prescott AZ

June 17, 2012

Tony, Jerome, Dave and Lisa flew through the night, taking advantage of the cooler temps to make it all the way across the Mojave Desert by to Blythe CA by 5am (EDT) where we in the day shift took over. We were able able to ride in the cool night air for 4-5 hours before the sun started blazing – high nineties in SW Arizona. It cooled a little – to the mid-90s – when we climbed up into the mountain leading into Prescott, which is about 5000′.

One big difference in our strategy this year with an eight-person team is that we have a lot of manpower to tackle the difficult climbs. We learned in the West Virginia Mtns in 2010 that we can really speed up our climbing time by breaking the climb up among 3-4 riders, changing out every mile 1 or 2. We tackled all the difficult climbs in AZ this way today.

Overall we had a great first day – faster overall speed vs our 4-man team times, never got off course, no penalities, and never lost any time on our exchanges. Most importantly the crew did job no 1 – kept the riders safe. Still, it was a stressful day for the 12 crew and riders who are all new to this crazy event. Everyone wanted to do a perfect job, but it’s inevitable that there will be first day glitches as everyone gets the routine down.

We are all exhausted. Time for bed to try and get 4 hours before we get up at midnight (9pm local time!) and make the 3 hour drive to catch our night shift somewhere near Kayenta, AZ and head toward Monument Valley.

And We’re Off!

June 16, 2012

What a scene at the start – over 50 teams from all over the world. A few of them we know from previous races, particularly the German crew on Team Equipe Schwarz. It’s enough to say we’ve shared a few beers with them over the years….

The race started at noon local time (3pm EDT), but with are over 50 teams leaving in a staggered start we were the last ones to leave, so the GCG didn’t roll out of the starting gate until 3:45. All 8 riders rode out together, but within a half mile the 4 day shift riders peeled off and rode back to our Sprinter van, and immediately drove 200 miles to check into a motel in Blythe CA to catch as much rest as we can.

A little about how we’ve organized the rotation of our 9-person crew, 8 riders and three vehicles. First of all we’re split into two teams, each including 4 riders and 4 crew. The “night” shift, with Coach Tony, Jerome Rossetti, Dave Payne and Lisa Wilson, will ride from approximately 5:00pm to 5:00 AM EDT(the official race time from start to finish is Eastern Daylight, so we leave our clocks and watches on EDT the whole race). They will be accompanied by crew members Lynn Teague, Celeste Burr, Stephen Harrell and Neil Fleming. The “day” shift includes riders Frank, Joe Daniels, Lee Amlicke and Jane Eastham, plus crew members Charlie Robinson, Bruce Zavodny,  Brigette Killion and Amy Westergren-Amlicke.

Each shift splits up, 2 riders and crew, between the 2 mini-vans. These mini-vans will alternate as the “follow” vehicle – the van that follows closely behind the rider on the road. The follow van will have one rider on the road and one rider in the back. The other van will drive ahead 10 to 20 miles, position a rider on the road ready to ride, and wait for the current rider and follow van to catch up. When the exchange occurs the new rider will start out and his/her van will then become the follow vehicle. The 2 vans continue hopscotching this way for 12 hours (to approx 5am or 5pm)  when we will do a full shift change of all riders and crew. At time the shift that just finished their riding will hop in the Sprinter van with their gear and drive 200-250 miles to the next motel to eat, sleep, clean up, do laundry and shop for the next day. If all goes smoothly there will be time for about 3-4 hours of sleep, although for the first couple of days the riders may be too keyed up sleep at all.

The multi-talented Chad Carter, our 9th crew member, is driving the Sprinter Van, shuttling the day and night teams to and from the exchange points and the day’s motel. He is also our on call emegency medicine, massage and physical therapist. It’s always good to have a ex-military man on board and we are very happy Chad is here with us.

Saturday Morning – Race Day!

June 16, 2012
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!
Coach Tony