Race across the West (& America) report

One month after Race around Slovenia it is time for the toughest race in the World - the Race across America. It is a race that gets into your heart and it is hard to stay away when this happens. Unfortunately it costs way too much for me to be able to pull it off every year. This year the plan was to see the race from the other side as a crew chief. Due to the circumstances the plan was postponed for a year and I was left wondering how to get close to RAAM. The answer was simple in the shape of RAAM's little "brother" called Race across the West or RAW. Just a 860 miles long race that starts simultaneously as RAAM and finishes in Durango, CO. After a quick search for a crew, we got Tanja and Chris to join Irma and me, so we were in! After one of our bags got lost on a way, we were left without our clothing, but the main items arrived - the bike and one piece of jersey&shorts, helmet and the shoes for the race, which are always in my backpack because of similar experiences in the past.

 

Chris was nice enough to bring me some extra clothing for night riding, so we didn't have to spend much on purchases (other than some underwear and T-shirts;). There was not much time for anything before the race as we only had two days to prepare. The lack of heat acclimatization did haunt me during the race, but it was the only way we could do the race this year. I did manage to get together and talk to old friends, did two very short rides and Irma, Tanja & Chris did all the rest.
 
The plan for the race was to go out fast, try to catch my main adversary Adam Bickett and try to hold off the RAAM riders from catching me. Well, mainly from getting away from Christoph, who I knew was going to be very fast. All was good until we hit the "Glass elevator" i.e. descent into Borrego Springs. With the heat I could feel a discomfort rising, I was starting to feel sick and couldn't eat properly anymore. Of course that showed at my performance, I slowed down considerably and Adam managed to catch me back. I didn't have the power to even follow him, so I just plowed along waiting for evening and my stomach to allow me to start racing again. One good thing of being old(er) is you know from experience that you just have to continue to push forward and sooner or later your condition will improve. And it did! Unfortunately not fast enough to hold off Christoph, who passed me way before I would like him to, somewhere in the 10th our of racing. He was flying! Catching me for one hour in the10h of racing? It was a bit demoralizing, but considering my condition a few hours before that, I couldn't complain.


 
After he was away, I could still feel my power rising and I was picking my pace again. On the flats towards Blythe, I got the news that I was in the lead of RAW again, so I must have past Adam standing by the road somewhere. I have also passed quite a few relay teams by that time, so I was doing fine. Even with my heat issues I was still on schedule to make it to Congress and the feared Yarnell climb before the heat of the day hits. I had to make an early morning stop for no.2 at the Congress TS. It lasted some 15 minutes, during which time Adam has passed me back. Adam was showing he is a worthy adversary, like I expected. I was feeling quite good climbing the Yarnell grade and I quickly caught up to Adam. The next miles towards Prescott he has followed me closely and with the heat once more upon us, I wasn't really in the shape of doing something about it. Still, the food was sitting well in my stomach this time, so it was a matter of time before I would feel good enough to try to make my move. Adam was fair enough (or maybe he just felt he could make a better tempo) that he took the lead coming into Prescot. I was happy to let him lead as my crew had to go to ahead for the gasoline and I was reluctant to go much further without someone guiding me through the town. Did I mention that we had another "passenger" in the form of 2-person team of Mick Walsh and George Thomas? Out of Prescott, I could feel that Adam's tempo was fading a bit, so I took the lead back and decided to do my own tempo on the climb of Mingus Mountain. All was good, my power was still there and I managed to ride away from them in the heat. I didn't really like the detour towards Flagstaff, but I did all right and started enjoying myself a bit more on the fast flat part towards Navajo Nation and Tuba City TS. I had to stop there for a few minutes as it was getting cold, so I put on the winter jacket, a cap and had winter gloves prepared for later in the night.

I was pushing a good pace through the night and was fast enough to pass through the Monument Valley in the night (7th time in my 8 RAAM/RAW crossings). The plan was to finish in under 48 hours, so there was not much need for sleep, was it? I've done it all the way to Durango once before (in 2005), so I knew it could be done. The news were good also, as I found out that Adam is already more than an hour behind. At TS Mexican Heat where I usually have my first sleep, we passed Christoph's parked RV with his crew sleeping in it, which showed me he is not that far ahead after all. All was good until Cortez and than the heat pressed again, combined with the sleepiness that was sneaking upon me. If it was RAAM, of course I would be forced to sleep here. But being that the finish line was just around the corner, I soldiered on, very slowly I must admit. It felt like it will take forever before I climbed to the top of a grade before descent towards Durango. I made it! Only a few miles of downhill to the Finish and I could celebrate with my crew. We did it in 48h 33min, which is not exactly as fast as I wanted, but considering the issues I had, I felt it was a pretty good race anyway. My crew did an awesome job, thank you from the bottom of my heart - my sweetheart Irma with Tanja Ljubicic and Chris Ragsdale, who were kind enough to join the party on a really, really short notice. You rock and can be a part of my crew anytime you desire.
 


The results:

1. Marko Baloh (Slo) 48h 33mim
2. Adam Bickett (USA) 49h 54min
3. Rob White (USA) 62h 57min

 

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