RAAM 2013 report - part 2

the story continues...


Like planned, I slept for two sleep cycles which is the whole three hours. Some of the competitors slept less, so that gave me "targets" for overtaking on the way to Utah and Colorado. I’ve never rode through Monument Valley as fast as this year. My average speed from time station Kayenta to Mexican Hat was more than 36km / h, with some the help from the wind, of course, but still crazy fast ride. I loved it! In the next kilometer I overtook Jason “Hammer” Lee and some minutes later I caught up to Gulewicz. Wetalked for a few minutes, he wondered I was pushing it so early in the morning? All I did was taking advantage of feeling good after a good sleep, my legs felt like new, so I quickly advanced into the heart of Colorado and towards the highest peaks of the Rocky Monutains. Unfortunately, with an elevation my good feelings were slowly disappearing and now after the race I can see that was the time, when my chances for a podium finish slipped through my hands. I’ve never had so much trouble climbing the hills over 3000m above sea level, except maybe in RAAM 2005, when I was climbing those with pneumonia all over my lungs. Shallow breathing, wheezing and consequently empty legs could barely turn the pedals uphill. It caused my distance to the leaders to become unattainable, while my pursuers were again catching up with me. The first who overtook me before Wolf Creek Pass was Gulewicz. Of course, we couldn’t do without more problems, as I cracked my bike frame for the hills TCR and I had to switch to PROPEL, which was set up more for time trialing. Yet another of the million problems we seemed to have this year…

I can well remember the last hill in Rocky, Cuchara Pass, I was just crawling up that one, barely able to breath and a snail's pace of 6-7km / h. At moments I was seriously considering putting on my sneakers and continuing on foot, as it would have been absolutely no slower. Here for the first time a thought of quitting came up, because I could just not imagine to continue the race with such a difficult breathing. Lungs are lungs, without them no muscle will help you much. At the top we had a short rest and decided to continue the descent into the plains of Kansas, We thought that the time will tell if the problem was only in the thin air of Colorado or is ti something bigger. So I continued into the night and towards the first miles of Kansas after the Kim time station. After another three hours of sleep I started the morning with Propel equipped with the high-profile rear wheel (90mm), luckily the wind at my back and the news that a small group of five or six followers are catching up to me. Of course I didn’t want to give them a chance to catch me. And so began my day in the prairie, the day that showed us the wisdom of our decision for the extended sleep. At that time, despite the worse shape ever before the race start, I started believing again that it was possible to achieve under nine day crossing of the United States. In that awesome day, I rode unbelievable 580 km, have escaped all the rivals from behind and began to catch Gulewicz ahead. It was the first time the usually tiresome and boring Kansas became one of the most beautiful parts of the race.

The next day, when we came to Missouri new problems started or escalated. Problems with saddle sores, which we have tried to take care of with various pain relief oinments, here escalated in such severe pain that I just wanted to throw in the towel. At the crossing of Mississippi river in the car because of flooded area I told my crew chief that in such a state I am no longer unable to continue the race. When I started to cry on Irma’s shoulder, the team realized that I’m not joking and once again Joni’s experience saved the day. The decision was to try with some more creams and sprays, including antibiotic cream, wait half an hour, so it takes effect and then start going again to see did it help or not. And it did! And how, I could not believe what an incredible difference in half an hour. The downside of this therapy was that I had to wear some sort of underwear that upheld all of those oinments in the right place. This was much hotter, and I couldn’t perform No.1 from the bike anymore. But who cares, the important thing is that I could once again move towards the east and the finish line in Annapolis! You can literally say that Joni saved my butt... ;)

In Illinois, the rain has finally caught up and because the state of my behind, we had to be very careful that it doesn’t wash off the medicine. That’s why I was wearing full rain equipment and continued riding. Despite the poor conditions I pressed hard through the next station as I have learned from the crew that I have a chance to win the race in a race called the "King of the Preries". According to the calculations of my crew I managed to take over the leaderboard from Reto. Unnfortunately,the official confirmation of the organizer of the race is still pending? Good riding has also meant that I overtook Gulewicz, who had plenty of problems due to lack of sleep. The worse of his problems at the time seemed the Shermer neck which also seems to be the reason for his subsequent withdrawal.

All of the aforementioned problems and off the bike time had their consequences in somewhat familiar and long-awaited "visit" by Mark Pattinson, which took place before the last station in Ohio, when I was overtaken for the first time in my sleep. A few kilometers later I overtook him back and greeted him with a "See you later" because I know very well how fast the guy is in the final days of the race, and I could only hope that with the better regeneration this year I will be able to resist his attack more than I did in 2011. And this is exactly what happened when I was overtaken by him in West Virginia. I was able to follow him on the ups and downs in Appalachian mountains, until in the late afternoon I began to feel the need for sleep. In these moments, the double vision starts to appear, which means that I will soon either start to sleep on a bike or drive a damn slowly. So, we opted for a 15 minute powernap that I needed to regain power, but unfortunately it turned out, that in the Appalachian hills Mark was more powerful, since his advantage started to increase. The toughest stage of the race in the Appalachian Mountains waited for us, and here we had to solve a new problem - the Di2 battery was empty and the RV with the spare one was not close. On the other hand, the problem was not so acute as at first only the front derailleur stops working and the rear one works for quite some time. So, I had to coast downhill and as for the uphills, it was all between 10 and 20%, so anything other than 34-28 was not needed anyway. One of the best memoriesfrom this year’s race comes from the last of the Sideline Hills, as the crew played ACDC’s Thunderstruck from the bottom to the top and I was flying to the top, indeed amazing for someone with 4600 + kilometers in the legs.

The last 200 km was taking forever, as always with the difference that this time I remember all the details of the race, as in the earlier years I can only remember a detail here and there. The decision of the three-hour sleep has thus proved to be excellent, but unfortunately we will never know what would it actually mean if my fitness was as high as it was one month before the race, at RAS.

In the end, I can’t finish without mentioning the superb race by Cristoph Strasser, who was a shoulder above the competition, and with time 7days 22 hours set a new milestone in ultra-cycling. Remarkable result that will probably defy time as long as the previous Penseyres’ record (from1985 to 2013). Hats off and congratulations to Cristoph!

Congratulations also to Dani and Reto for second and third place, Mark for the fourth and also to all riders who have successfully finished this year's RAAM. Every finisher is a winner!

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