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.