www.raceacrossamerica.org - info about the race
www.ultrarob.com - Rob Lucas's website
http://ultrarob.blogspot.com - Rob's blog - for the real story
I had the opportunity this year to serve as a crew member for Rob Lucas in this year's Race Across America. I remember seeing coverage of this event on ABC's Wide World of Sports twenty years ago, and being amazed by what that band of crazies were doing. Well, they're still at it, and they're still crazy. The solo riders are on their bikes for 20 or more hours a day, covering about 300 miles in that time. They exist on liquid food, get little sleep, and ride over mountain passes, through wind, along endless roads, day and night, hot and cold, dry and wet. Even having seen it up close, I still don't quite believe it. But let me tell you, watching Rob ride like he did, and work through the pain he was in, and remain cheerful and polite, was the single most impressive and inspiring thing I have ever seen.
Here we are in Oceanside, CA. for the pre-race vehicle inspection. Rob is in front of the van in the red shirt. Crew Chief Ryan is kneeling, Wyatt in the yellow shirt and Robert in white are talking with a RAAM official in the orange hat. Nathan is hiding behind the palm tree. The red van served as our follow car that stays with the rider. The big brown van was the support van and crash pad for off-duty crew members.
This is the staging for the start on the pier in Oceanside. In front is the Austrian handcycle team, a six person team that finished the race in 10 days! That's Lon Haldeman working on his language skills. In back are some of the solo riders. Rob Lucas is fourth from the right. To his right is Tinker Juarez.
Anza-Borrego desert in California. It was a mild 98 degrees.
I-10, dawn on day 2.
Rob's infrequent stops early in the race were just to change clothes, put on sunscreen, and urinate.
We all got very adept at making hand-offs of water bottles, snacks, and inhalers - Rob has asthma. Almost all of his fuel came in the form of a Hammer product called Perpetuum. He did eat a few pretzels, grapes, crackers, and asked for watermelon often.
The crew was kept very busy, but crossing the country at 15mph made us a bit silly at times.
The van would usually follow just behind Rob, but would come up alongside to do hand-offs when needed. That's Nathan with the bottle.
Rob was excited and cheerful about finally getting out of the desert and into the mountains of Colorado. He powered right over Wolf Creek pass at almost 11,000ft with a smile on his face. He was held up by traffic on the descent, the cars were only going 60mph, not fast enough for him. Later he got up to 55mph at night!
In eastern Colorado and western Kansas, we had strong cross winds and constant lightning. We watched several fires start.
Into the night and into the storm. A tornado touched down about 10 miles ahead of us. Rob soldiered on.
Taking a picture of lightning from a moving car with a digital camera is not easy, but it was so frequent that I was able to catch one.
The next day, Rob is still riding. A couple fans came alongside to give him some much needed encouragement.
Dammit Jim! I'm a bike mechanic, not a chiropractor. Every team should have a masseuse, a physical therapist and an osteopath. We had none, so we did the best we could, but Rob needed more than we knew how to give. He has been chasing the time cut-offs for two days now, and has not been getting the sleep or recovery he needs. The end is near.
This is the roadside therapy session for Rob and the crew. Mike and Cindy Roark, RAAM officials extraordinaire, are expert at doing this. Rob's wife Julie took it pretty hard. All of us had given everything we could to help Rob, but this race is unforgiving, Rob could not go on.
Rob decided to stop at the Mississippi River, 2000 miles from the Pacific, 1000 short of the Atlantic. We were all exhausted.
The experience was everything I had hoped it would be and more. I got to know some great people, and saw the country in a unique way. The riders of this race are indeed a strange breed. They have an inner drive that most of us just can't understand. My respect and admiration goes out to them and to the countless people who donate their time and energy to help make the event happen. For Rob Lucas, I have nothing but respect. I'm sure that he will be back to try again, and with the lessons learned, he will finish.