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.
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.
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A little more than 7 weeks until the start! After months of preparation we are closing in on the start of the Georgia Chain Gang’s third RAAM. This team has put in tens of thousands of miles since this idea was hatched in the spring of 2009. We’ve also raised over $300,000 for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society over the last three years, with more to come! While finishing the race is a huge accomplishment, I think we all are even more proud of what we have done to help this cause. 1300 people follow us on Facebook and many more through our newsletters and Twitter feeds. The support and encouragement of all these people is very important to us, and much appreciated. We hope and plan to do them and you proud this year.
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”