June 25, 2007

The privilege of crewing RAAM

Extract of an e-mail from Richard Philabaum - a true gentleman and fabricator extraordinaire and able to sleep anywhere anytime. We all endorse his kind words

"I had the opportunity to crew RAAM for Team Velokraft. Having followed RAAM for a number of years I jumped at the chance to crew after seeing Tim Woudenberg’s ad in the Bentrider Classifieds. After contacting Tim and David Bradley I was selected for the Team. I was also asked to design and fabricate the rack to hold the NoComs on the Leap Frog Van.

My crew duties had me on all three of our support vehicles at one time or other throughout the race. This put me in a unique position to watch our Team at work as well as move through the pack and see other teams during the race. It was certainly an experience of a lifetime. I met many interesting people and hope I made some lasting friendships.

I would like to thank everyone for their contribution to the Team and my first RAAM experience.

My thanks to all of the members of Team Velokraft:

Glenn Druery – Glenn is a tenacious, driven competitor with TRUE GRIT. I will miss his wonderful sense of humor and propensity for fun. He maintained this sense of humor in the face of adversity as well. Glenn also had an endless supply of amusing cycling stories to tell. I would crew for him again.

Tim Woudenberg – Tim, while quieter and more reserved then Glenn is still the consummate long distance racer. This quiet determination and drive was a constant inspiration to everyone. He maintained a cheerful, driven attitude throughout the race. His constant compliments to the crew where wonderful for us. I loved our phone conversations before we met in person. Tim is interested in EVERYTHING. I am looking forward to talking with him about his work and other interests in the future.

David Bradley – As Team Chief, David had an awesome responsibility. I admired him for keeping his temper through out all the difficulties RAAM had to offer. A special thanks to David for making it possible for me to stop in Midland Texas on the way back from RAAM. The visit I had with David Eggleston and his wife Lois was wonderful. I have a Flevo Alleweder kit on order from him.

Phil Bradley – Phil’s previous RAAM experience was a great help to us all. Good luck on your collegiate cycling!

Mark Carrington – I loved Mark’s many stories about his life experiences. He passed up many hours of sleep during RAAM to keep the fans updated via the tweeter and blog. He did a wonderful job creating the Team’s web site. His computer skills and journalistic flare was a tremendous asset to the Team.

David Cohen – David stepped into the breach to apply expert first aid for both riders after many crashes. He also did a great job of navigation for me when I drove the Team’s RV Support Vehicle. I enjoyed meeting his family and talking with him about his work and Power Tool Drag Racing hobby.

Dennis Cook – Dennis did a wonderful job as RV Captain. He maintained the vehicle expertly and got us across the country in a safe, sane manner. We shared many hours of pleasant conversation and I hope built a friendship for the future. Dennis is a great guy and very much the Gentleman. Thanks again Dennis!

James Druery – James did a great job of putting up with all us “Old Farts”! He was great to talk to and did a wonderful job of cooking for his dad, Glenn. James' support for his dad was instrumental in Glenn’s success. My hat’s off to James for soldiering on through what would be uncomfortable circumstances for some people.

Tom Kingsbury – Tom’s previous RAAM experience was very helpful to the Team. Tom was tireless in his support of the riders. I wish we had had more time to talk about his 2006 RAAM experience with Tim. Hope to talk to you again, Tom.

Fernando Mandujano – Fernando is the consummate bicycle mechanic. He did double duty as driver for the Leap Frog Van as well. He is quite the gentleman and I hope to work with him again in the future.

Vicki Pelton – Vicki’s constant enthusiasm was a boost to the riders throughout RAAM. She also helped David Cohen administer first aid to the riders when needed and shared driving and navigation duties with me in the Pace Van.

I would also like to thank the other people who helped outside of the RAAM crew:

Kathy Wasserlien – Kathy is my lovely lady friend. Her support of my dream of participating in RAAM was great.

Dana Lieberman – It was wonderful to finally meet Dana in person. His sponsorship of the Team was essential to the Team’s success. It was a boon that he let Fernando take the time off from his duties to support the team in person.

Jonathon Dietch – I have e-mailed back and forth with Jon for sometime now. It was great to finally meet in person. Jon did yeoman service updating things through my lady friend Kathy after I dropped my phone in Arizona during a bike hand off and his computer skills where an asset to us all. Looking forward to working and playing with you in the future Jon!

Dan Langmade – My boss Dan was generous (as always!) to contribute the materials to construct the Team’s NoCom rack. He also allowed me to take time off work even when I had no vacation time available. I have not worked for a nicer, more generous, understanding boss in my life. I am looking forward to working for you as long as you will have me.

Jose Moura and the Brazilian Four Man RAAM Team – Jose found my Motorola Q Phone where I dropped it in Arizona during a bike hand off. He tracked me down through my friend Kathy and transported my phone to Atlantic City where he returned it to me. Jose was a wonderful gentleman. I am sorry we did not have more time to get to know each other. Thanks again Jose!

Phil Plath, John Schlitter, and all of the Bacchetta B Team – I was able to observe both of these great competitors first hand. It was an inspiration. The rest of the B team was always friendly and gracious when we encountered them. All in all, worthy competitors. I would have been equally proud to have crewed for the B Team.

The Staff of RAAM and all the RAAM volunteers – Last but not least my compliments to all of the RAAM staff and volunteers who make this monumental event possible. Your efforts are well appreciated.

June 20, 2007

The last 48 hours

As I write this Tim Woudenberg is riding solo down the Interstate into Atlantic City. he has been riding solo since yesterday morning at 6:30 am (i.e., nearly 24 hours). And on the day before he pulled close to 12 hours on his own. Not often will you see a team rider ride a RAAM share and then do a Furnace Creek event on the last day.

These two riders showed what can be done with grit and determination. They recovered from some very difficult crash situations on the first night - they gave up 2 and a half hours to Team Bacchetta. Then they clawed that back especially on nights 3, 4 and 5 and put down the hammer through Kansas. The hills of Missouri found the true cost of Glenn's accident manifested in a sore knee. A first visit to an emergency department - during which time Tim rode 4 hours solo during the day - allowed Glenn to put in some blistering riding during the night through Illinois. In one time station segment he gained 22 minutes on the team behind. Waking the next morning was the telling moment with the knee very stiff and painful to ride - with the hills of West Virginia to contend with, it was no surprise that Glenn was again off the bike and Tim was riding solo.

Another visit to Emergency Department in Cumberland Ohio was not enough to get Glenn's knee right. Decision was made to get him off the bike and to finish the race as a solo effort around 350 miles from the end. At 1 am yesterday the whole team pulled up and slept on the roadside until 5 am - the aim was to test Glenn on the downhill and flat sections. That lasted 20 miles before Glenn chose not to risk his future cylcing career and Tim stepped up to the plate to finish this thing. We split the crew up and the majority of us took Glenn down to Atlantic City.

This morning at 4:30 am Tim reached Atlantic City and the team was finished in 7 Days 11 hours beating Tim's time from last year. An amazing feat

The middle stages - surging up the field

It's taken time for both riders to recover from the crashes on I10 near Salton City. It's taken time for the crew to get into a good working rhythm ensuring changeovers work well, ensuring riders are properly fed and getting some sleep themselves. The strategy is simple: 1. leverage the design of the Nocom on the downhill and flat sessions and 2. work the nights harder and 3. Don't lose time in the mountains.

The effort up Wolf Creek Pass was the start of this race to close the 2.5 hour gap to Team Bacchetta (it was also the time to stop feeding good information to the web about team situaiton and strength). Glenn and Tim ran short pulls to the summit at 10,500 feet above the snowline with Glenn taking over a half mile from the summit and then taking the descent in the dark. It was pretty hair raising stuff following behind at such speeds. Into South Form average speed wa a little lower than Team B - into Alamosa CO, Glenn was able to run a TS at 24.94 mph (close to a time station record) - over 3 mph faster than Team B - and a pace diffferntial that Tim was able to sustain into La Veta CO. Riding like this on these machines requires a control of fear hard to believe.

Then on the flatter lands of the Colorado/Kansas border the riders put down the challenge with 4 successive time stations averaging over 20 mph - mush of this into a headwind of 8 to 10 mph. In fact the whole journey across Kansas was completed at over 20 mph as the riders pushed relentlessly into the wind. By Collins, Missouri - the first time station over the border the gap over team B had opened to 1 hour and 10 minutes. This is the point that the RAAM gods decided to set up the next challenge for the team - Glenn pushed hard into the Missouri rollers just short of the Illinois border and started to feel pain in his left knee - pushing really hard in a big gear on top of damage sustained on that first night. Glenn checked into Memorial Hospital, Greenvill Illinois to treat his knee. Tim went onto the road and pulled for 3 hours to give Glenn enough time to get back to the race.

And back he came with anti-inflamatory treatment working wonders to mask the pain during his night shift through the flatter parts of Illinois. He was riding like a man possessed at the time we were pacing behind him and the gap started to open up again. The train was back on the road. Well so we thought until Glenn woke from his night rest with severe pain in his knees now that the masking effects were gone.

It became very clear in his pulls after this that any uphill effort was very difficult and that he would have to scale back the effort. And no shotage of uphill in West Virginia and beyond. Tim stepped up again to fill the breach and rode a long spell (6 hours) in the afternoon session while we worked out strategy. the plan was to rest Glenn for 12 hours and test the knee before committing him back to the battle. That plan changed a bit when Glenn chose a further round of treatment in Cumberland Ohio - we got him to ER and back in 3 hours and put him on the road for his 4 hour night pull. the idea was to let him ride as far as he could and rest Tim for 4 hours. On the top of the hills before TS 53 Glenn stopped and the whole team stopped for a 5 hour rest. The first time since the start we had all been together.

June 16, 2007

Quick look at two men in fine form

Just a quick look at Tim and Glenn as they zoom down the roads of the US in the Race Across America - Glenn on his Nocom and Tim sporting his yellow ear and riding the VK2

June 15, 2007

Out of the mountains

It was a priviledge to help our riders into and over the Rockies - on the climbs up Wolf Creek Pass, the pass into La Veta and Cucheras Pass, they fought like men possessed to make up the time lost on that eventful first night. Glenn in particular was determined - you will see the results on the time station into Alamosa Colorado, where the team came close to the time station record - 24.94 mile per hour. The record is 24.99. And riding behind him as he descended at over 60 miles per hour was a real treat.

Wolf Creek Pass was cold - snow lying on the ground below the level we were riding and the waterfalls running strongly. Standing out there in shirtsleeves and shorts was quite something - but then this is the story of RAAM - heroes in every dimension fighting it out against the elements and against themselves. Coming out the mountains this morning was awesome - watching the sunrise from the top of Cucheras Pass alongside two of the solo women's teams was special. The opening views down to the plains above Trinidad Colorado.

It seems that the riders are getting back to good shape - they have got to within 30 minutes of Team Bacchetta and are steadily making their way up the 4 man teams and we note that Team Body Exchange have dropped out. RAAM extracts its retribution. We look forward to seeing what our bikes can do into Kansas headwinds compared with the more upright bikes.

Now we (i.e., the crew working the RV and the sleepers) rest in Ulysses Kansas - looked after very well by Avis Gibbons of Single Tree Inn and orchestrated by Scott Nichols of the Chamber of Commerce. We have seen all manner of places along the way and this one is a real treat.

June 14, 2007

Into the mountains

We started the day heading into Monument Valley a little before darkness broke - for a first time visitor it was an awesome view. Not sure how the riders liked it - we're a bit disconnected with what they are doing when we are positioning the RV for the days provisioning.

Road is a steady climb for about 30 miles though climbing only 3000 feet. As we are coming through quite early the temperatures are not too high - think that will come later in the day though there is a cooling breeze as we sit in Cortez Colorado waiting for the team to arrive.

Team Bacchetta - our two man recumbent rivals came through just as we arrived - we are still paying for the misadventures of the first night.

Onwards and upwards into the Rockies with a lining of snow on them.

June 13, 2007

Toughing it out

Well what a way to introduce the rookies on the crew to RAAM.

Tim and Glenn started out well and made really good progress. We had a few logistical issues to sort out to get the RV ahead of the riders to do crew changes before the darkness shifts. RV route was very pretty seeing the transition from coast to desert in relatively short distance.

Troubles for the team began not long after we reached Interstate 10 and darkness together. Glenn started a procession of misfortune with a small crash - he took off too quickly for a changeover and hit the dirt - elbows gone. The Interstate debris was the biggest challenge. The Nocom is not responsive to evasive action - if you get to see the debris anyway. First part of bike damage. Tim was next to hit the dirt - touched the soft shoulder and down he went. Badly banged up elbows though no serious damage to the bike. Glenn took over and had his turn - this time it was a front flat at high speed (40 mph). He threw the bike down on one side and then pulled it back t the other - result = evenly matched road rash on both cheeks - much worse than Tim's.

Took a long while to get Glenn patched up and back onto the bike to relieve Tim - and we struggled on as best we could. Getting off that Interstate and onto Arizona roads was a relief. As dawn broke we begin to count the cost on man and machine - and hoping that the heat would not be too bad. Seemed to spend a lot of the day going back and forth to patch up this and that.

Heat began to tell and we had to pull Tim off the bike and let Glenn back out there for a long pull - through the pain and all.

They say that when the going gets tough the tough get going. These boys are going to have to be tough - heroic as they have been so far.

June 12, 2007

Teams on the way

It's been a pretty quiet morning. Team had breakfast together and we started the first of the close in briefing sessions. Tim made it down but Glenn was able to get to sleep until 9am.

After breakfast we were into the last minute things - building spare wheels as the parts arrived from LA (thanks Dana); making sure each of the follow vans had food for both riders; getting bike spares and tools properly stashed in the frogger van.

About van support. We have a pace van that follows the riders. During the day this van will be close by. At night the rider must be in the headlights of a van at all times - we will use this van. The frogger van will leapfrog the riders to do rider exchanges. This van carries the retiring rider and the bike spares and bike mechanic and lots of rider food. The frogger van will relieve the pace van for gas stops and in the event of a mechanical issue with the van. The RV acts as the mothership and carries the sleeping crew and sleeping rider at night. RV crew does most of the shopping; reprovisioning of the follow vehicles and does the laundry.

All was peaceful until 12 when the shopping expedition was delayed in returning - a few nerves then. They made it by 1pm - quick unload and down to the start. The start was all about introductions and staging the riders. The race starts with a parade route for 13 miles before racing begins - so this is all pretty relaxed. At least the sun is out. Back to base for last minute things and then up the road we will go. For the RV this is to Salton City (TS2). For the follow vehicles it's off to mile 23 where staged support can begin.

June 10, 2007

Solo race started today

What a rush it has been to get from 1 week to go to the start of solo RAAM.

Since last Wednesday when the "down unders" arrived in San Francisco we have gathered together 3 vans - an RV to house the team on the road, a pace van to follow the riders and a leapfrog van (maybe that should be a ROO van) to carry and setup the next rider. We have wired all 3 vans for radio, emergency lighting, public address and music, and power sockets to drive computers, hairdryers and massage beds. We have spent a lot of time on California's urban highways to get to LA first and then to Oceanside, a little north of San Diego. We have run some practice sessions to get the newbies used to the rigours of the rules and what has to be done to change over riders safely. And we have eaten a lot of Mexican food - here at Oceanside we are 53 miles from the border. It's also been a bit like being in the army - "hurry up and wait" - sure that will change when we get on the road and have 36 hours of experience under the belt.

Been some special interactions. We had a great session on Saturday afternoon at Bent Up Cycles in Van Nuys near LA - home of the team sponsor. The team talked with many customers. Tim and Dave had a go at a fully faired trike - the cruise missile did not look out of place on the airfield perimeter. Jon shot some great video when Tim and Glenn did a shakedown ride
for viewing here. thanks Jon for a lot of fun. You're a legend and the picture of Dana at the end of the video has the greatest smile.

And today we wandered down to the start of solo RAAM. A special day too. For the Ausies it was a chance to meet two Aussies competing - Kerry White in the womens and Richard Vollebregt in the mens. Richard recently broke the trans Australia record and has the longest hair of all the solo competitors. At the time of writing both were in 3rd place around time station 3. For the afficionados it was great to see the former riders return especially the former winners.

After that it was fun and work. Fun with Team Bacchetta and work on the practice sessions around Camp Pendleton - Tim and Glenn managed to talk their way into riding right through the camp on their ride home.

And today's challenge is to tell us what you think about the picture above - what's up? Comment below or email to the team at info@teamvelokraft.com

June 04, 2007

1 week to go

New picture of Glenn now resplendent in his Waratah Veterans Cycling Club jersey

Glenn, Mark and James depart Sydney tomorrow (June 6 - D Day) for San Francisco - the adventure really begins in earnest. The rest of the crew will converge on Tim's house from Thursday and we journey as a team down to Oceanside on Saturday.

The final touches are coming together. Bike lighting is agreed. Some small modifications to the racks for signage are needed and Richard is doing those. David - crew chief - has volunteered to be the sales rep for Australian sales of the racks. Vans will be picked up on Thursday and Friday. Friday will be a busy day fitting lights to vans; building benches inside the pace and frogger vans; wiring vans for computers; for public address; for music; etc.. And instructions gone out about being scent free - no musk please boys!

Meanwhile, RAAM organisation has sent out its launch press release - see it here.

And a big thank you to the first of the donations received through the team website - every bit helps.

May 31, 2007

Start order for teams

RAAM 2007 – Start Order – Teams
Tuesday June 12, 2007

1) Team Santa Barbara Bank & Trust (603)
2) Hoosiers (405)
3) Team Sixty Going Hard (417)
4) Team Donate Life - TexOz (50+) (205)
5) Team Donate Life-Beauty & the Beast (200)
6) Bacchetta B Team/Military Families Foundation (251)
7) Kalyra Women's Race Team (416)
8) Team Velokraft (250)
9) Team Burns & Trauma (402)
10) Shannon's Soldiers for CTF Research Team (408)
11) Team Donate Life-Primo (605)
12) Team Donate Life - Race 4 Life (400)
13) Team JDRF (412)
14) Ari's Angels Team (404)
15) Team BodyXchange/Garden Pathways (207)
16) Team Donate Life-Heels on Wheels (606)
17) North Coast Cycling Team (602)
18) Team Beat Cancer by www.coastalsportsmedicine.com (209)
19) Team Phoenix (201)
20) Team R.A.C.E. / BMO Fountain of Hope (202)
21) Team Blazing Saddles (401)
22) Vencendo Desafios Team Brazil (413)
23) Cheniere's Making Cancer History Team (608)
24) Team Kitten-www.PeteAndWendyCycling.com (206)
25) Team Donate Life-Grace Valley (604)
26) Team 2 Cure Huntingtons Disease (409)
27) Team Endeavor (418)
28) Virag/Stoklas Team (203)
29) Team N.U.B.S. (415)
30) Team VMG Cycling (407)
31) Team ViaSat (601)
32) Team IWC Schaffhausen (208)
33) Team Psycho (406)
34) Beaver Creek-Catlin Team (425)
35) S.K.R.A.A.M (204)
36) Team Strong Heart (411)
37) Team Gs-Logistik Austria (410)
38) Team Type I-monitored by: Freestyle (609)
39) Team Murphy (210)

May 29, 2007

2 weeks to go

It all seems so calm around the team - one gets the sense that the machine is well oiled.

Tim and Glenn keep training. Down in Sydney we have been blessed with great weather - with daytime temperatures above average every day and no rain.

Team apparel will be delivered to Tim's house on June 1. Website is now launched - link on the left. We know how to make updates of the blog and photos by e-mail - all we need is Internet connectivity. Richard has completed the rack to carry the bikes behind the pace and frogger vans. Great job, mate. Here he is:

Layout of this page changed a bit. In the links to the left is a badge from twitter.com. This is where the most frequent updates will be.

May 22, 2007

3 weeks to go

There's a lot going on this week. Glenn has been training in the high country - and welcomed the first snows of the Australian winter for his pains. Tim has been spending more time getting used to the NoCom. He says that it "demands you ride fast" and "it just wants to go". He was revelling in the 23 mph he achieved into a headwind on Sunday and he feels sorry for the competition. With the right gearing he may even consider not riding the VK2 in the hills.

Team website should be published during this week. The broad idea is the website will be an information site and will include the links to the RAAM website especially for race position information. Updates during the race will be posted on this blog and/or on twitter.com. Twitter.com is a new service enabling mini-updates by SMS, by IM and by web.

Other work going on - Richard is close to finishing the racks - it is no mean feat getting a NoCom to fit onto a rack. The wheeelbase is a challenge - not only for Richard but also for Tim who has a tight cul-de-sac to navigate from his house.

May 16, 2007

4 weeks to go

Race preparations are well underway.

Tickets are booked; training is ramping up; crew is taking shape; jerseys are ordered; pre-race trial weekend has been run