When the cycling bug bit me back in the 1980s, I began, like all of you, I suspect, to digest all the bike magazines out there. In that era Bicycling had a real thing for the Race Across America. Some of you may recall that in the mid-90s the magazine went as far as to field their own four-man team at the event.
The appeal of RAAM is pretty simple. It’s the world’s most basic race—here to there—writ in letters big enough to be seen from space. The sleepless part mystified me. Honestly, it still does.
Professional associations being what they are, I’ve got a fair number of friends who have worked in the media, left, come back, done another tour elsewhere, rinse and repeat. Back in January I heard from my friend Vic Armijo, who was at Bicycle Guide during a previous era, prior to my arrival. From the first time I met him I appreciated the depth of his knowledge and his quick, irreverent wit. Vic runs the media for RAAM and wanted to know if I’d be willing to be an at-home correspondent.
Now, before I can describe my reaction to the question, I have to tell you a story.
In 1996, when I was a newbie at Bicycle Guide my boss, Garrett Lai, managed to get me placed in Seana Hogan’s team. I was to be her mechanic, which was totally legit given that my last full-time stint in a bike shop had only ended 18 months or so prior.
What ensued was day upon day of working the day crew and not being permitted to sleep for more than an hour or two at night. Our crew chief had this belief that no one else could sleep when Seana was sleeping. Come Saturday, three or so days into the race and we were in East Nowheresville, Colorado, and I called Garrett from a payphone with my company calling card. Srsly; 1996 folks.
Now, I was so sleep deprived and disoriented that I was completely unaware that it was Saturday and that my ultra-hardworking boss might actually vacate the premises.
Which is to say, I got his voicemail.
My disappointment was visceral. I waited for the beep. I didn’t have much to say, honestly.
“Dude. You owe me big time.”
Fast foward 23 years and I’m losing no sleep, covering Seana Hogan—who is a truly lovely brainiac of a fearsome competitor—and watching the most remarkable race unfold across the U.S. Most of the women are in Missouri as I write this. The top five are within 200 miles of each other, which is a lot closer than it sounds. Their order has swapped multiple times in the last 48 hours, and I expect it to stay fluid at least for the next day, if not through the end of the race.
Hogan took a whopping 24 hours off the bike to heal some saddle sores and she clawing back some of that time it seems. This is a race where almost anything could happen (other than Jeannie Longo winning it) and I’m beyond excited to have such a comfortable ringside seat to it.
Check it out at the official RAAM site.
Image courtesy of Tara Roberts / RAAM Media