> <
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3

Let's get ready for 2015!

(Oceaside Pier, CA, Noon Pacific):
RAAM Solo Start -Tuesday, June, 16, 2015
RAW Solo & Team Start -Tuesday, June 16, 2015
RAAM Team Start - Saturday, June, 20, 2015


By Vic Armijo
City Dock, Annapolis MD
June 22, 2014

Saturday morning at 2:39 an 8-rider team finished here in Annapolis after having spent 6 days, 10 hours and 51 minutes pedaling eastward from Oceanside. A respectable finish to be sure—but nowhere near a record time—they took fifth place nearly a day and half behind the winning team. Yet this team of amateur cyclists garnered more publicity and interest from outside of they UltraCycling community than any team ever in the event’s history. Why? Simple; Pippa Middleton (age 30), sister of the Duchess of Cambridge was on the team.

Pippa’s participation in RAAM was covered on TV shows, in newspapers and in magazines around the world. The scene at the starting line in Oceanside was like none ever as scrum of photographers from news agencies and tabloids squeezed in to capture images of Pippa in her cycling wear. It was as if none of the other seven team members were there, which is unfortunate as they were as much a part of the team’s accomplishment as Pippa. Noteworthy was the participation of Pippa’s brother James Middleton (age 27) who spearheaded the formation of “Team Michael Matthews Foundation,” named for an organization that gives low-income children an education, and often builds schools for communities in need. This foundation was named after the 22-year-old who died in 1999 as he descended from the summit of Mount Everest after becoming the youngest Briton to reach it.

 Pippa is known for being an adventurous sort, so in organizing the effort her brother quickly thought of inviting her, ”The boys, they thought there was going to be some sort of—some way they were going to benefit if there was a girl on the team. So I was roped in by my brother. It’s been positive having the boy’s support. But I’ve had to make sure that I do my best and make sure that I cycle as much as they do and do the shifts that I have to. It’s been a fantastic experience. The highest point was the beautiful scenery,” to which her brother added, “Getting to the top of the Rockies, spectacular. Everyday brought a new side of the US and we enjoyed every moment.” ” Pippa continued, “We had such amazing support all along the way. And I was most amazed by the teamwork; it’s all about the logistics. The crew helped to feed us, to get us to bed. It was all simple issues of cycling, eating and sleeping. The low points, the lack of sleep. Your body is tired and you’ve just got to plug on and do your best. Each of us had to do our best to get us here.” Part of being on this team was supporting the others, Pippa commented,”We were always looking after the teammates; making sure that they’re ready and have their helmets on, their lights on and are taking on enough fluids.”
TEAMWORK: The 8-rider team divided itself into two 4-rider groups that took shifts of six hours. They had no crew member along during these shifts and took turns driving. All team members helped load and unload the bikes during rider transitions.

Asked about the low points Pippa responded, “The lack of sleep, really. We were lucky if we had maybe three hours a night. And then you wake up and you have to get yourself ready, get on the bike, navigate, and drive.” James added,”You have to get yourself on your get and get yourself awake and concentrated and being ready. You can’t just wake up and get out on the road.” Pippa also mentioned that this was her first experience with night riding,”It felt quite intimidating actually. You’re on the road. It’s weird, you’re cycling and you don’t really know where you’re cycling. You’re going along and see this dark shadow alongside the road and you don’t quite know what it is.” A sad reality of cycling 3,000 miles of back roads is that the riders often steer around road kill, ”In one evening we saw a combination of snakes, skunks, we saw some deer,” Pippa said with a wrinkled nose. James added, “We had a tally of the all the road kill that we saw. Thankfully we didn’t contribute to any of it.”

Pippa also spoke of the challenges, “The first few days my legs felt really sore and I was anxious about facing six more days of it. But you’re body almost gets used to it, sort of stretching out and suffering less. And fortunately I chose a particularly comfy saddle. I think the boys suffered far worse than I did.” The team had studied the event and had an idea of what to expect, but Pippa related that she was still surprised by the endurance the race required, “I found that the night and day shifts, it was demanding on your fitness. The sleep deprivation, you sort of think ‘How is it possible to get to the end?’ You sort of take each shift—we did six hours shifts between four of us—and you get into a routine and as they days go by you sort of see yourself working your way across America. That was quite satisfying.”

James summed up the feelings of the ream, “We’re delighted to be here with friends representing the foundation. It’s worked extremely well. The appeal that RAAM has has helped us to raise some good money for the charity. So thank you for the coverage that’s it’s provided. On behalf of the Michael Mathews Foundation, all of the cyclists here would like to thank the RAAM organizers, the race officials and all the volunteers. It was a wonderful race, beautiful scenery and the American public was very kind to us and supportive—so thank you for that. To see all of your country and to combine it with the charity foundation to do good things for people—maybe we’ll come back next year.”









By Vic Armijo

Late last night the Media One crew found second place rider Gerhard Gulewicz stopped outside of Maize, Kansas. He was astride his bike outside of his motor home as his cre...w huddled around him. It wasn’t until he was about to depart that we saw what is was they were fussing over—they’ve attached what looks to be a tennis ball can atop his stem for him to rest his chin on. Yes folks, Gerhard has Shermer’s Neck. For seven RAAM’s he’d been immune to this exquisite little inconvenience in which a rider loses the ability to hold up his or her head. But last year Gerhard had his first affliction and it eventually led to his DNF. In a pre-RAAM interview he described his 2013 experience, “It was two weeks before it was better. Nobody could tell me why. It does not hurt. The only thing that you can’t do is bring your head up. No pain. Nothing. Just no strength in the muscle. It is crazy. No impulse to the muscles. You can do nothing. You are lying down and you think ‘Oh it is better.’ But sit up and…”

Gulewicz is as tough and as stubborn as they come. But will he be able to continue on for the remaining 1450 miles to Annapolis?

ANDERS TESGAARD: "Fourth place, that is good too.”

By Vic Armijo

Among the many things that RAAM pundits have discussed in recent weeks is the surprising number of Danish rookies in RAAM 2014. Anders Tesgaard however is not among them—this high school biology teacher is a returning RAAM finisher here to improve upon his 2012 rookie race in which he finished in 12th 11 days, 7 hours and 6 minutes with an overall average speed of 11.04 mph. “My goal? To do better—the same as everybody,” he said back in Oceanside, “You try it one time and that’s okay, but if you have the feeling that you can do better, so that’s it.” He is indeed “doing better.” He’s currently in fourth place 

When RAAM Media One crew found him this morning nearing the Kansas state line he looked to be the picture of confidence and was pedaling smoothly and calmly like someone just biding their time, which in essence he was, “There are a lot of hills in the Appalachians and if I do good there I can capture third,” he said, obviously confident in his climbing prowess, “But for today I can just enjoy the wind.” He said of the steady tailwind that was carrying him along at a brisk pace. ”Yes, this is good. The wind is good. Going well and not pushing is good. And fourth place, that is good too.”

JOAN DEITCHMAN: “I want to do it right this time.”

By Vic Armijo
June 14, 2014
Pratt, KS

Current women’s leader Joan Deitchman has left the mountainous portion of Colorado and is now on the high plains that will eventually blend right in to Kansas. She’s doing better than in her last RAAM; in 2012 her overall average speed was 10.4 mph at Time Station #20 in Trinidad, Colorado, but today she reached it with an average speed of 11.31 mph thus far.

Deitchman has certainly made her mark in UltraCycling. She won the Race Across the West (RAW ) in 2011 (2 days, 22 hours, 58 minutes) and backed that up the following year with a second place ride in RAAM (12 days, 18 hours,  46 minutes). Yet within weeks of her 2012 RAAM finish the Canadian computer software engineer (who lives in Cupertino, CA.) was contemplating another go at RAAM, one in which she vowed she would “do it right.”

 “The whole reason I've wanted to go back was that in 2012 a lot of things went wrong and I want to do it right this time,” she explained in a recent interview, “My training had been going great up until a month out and then I got this cough and then I ended up tripping on a curb and tearing open my elbow. So about 10 days before RAAM I was on my third course of antibiotics and I'm on all this other stuff for the cough and my arm was in a sling from infection—I should have gotten stitches but I didn't realize how bad it was. Not the best way to go into the race.”

 That dark cloud continued to follow her, “Things went wrong from the start. I felt like I was in better shape than the year before for RAW and expected the first third to go comparable—but not that at all! I was fighting from the beginning. I had issues with my saddle and was getting back issues even before going up Palomar (less than 50 miles from the start) and so everything was flashing before my eyes before we even got out of California. I got the lower back issue figured out and then I had an IT band issue and rode up Yarnell Grade (Arizona) basically one-legged.” 

She later had motivational issues that she looks back on with regret.“People say that RAAM is about discovery, but afterward I felt more lost. A friend said 'Perhaps the discovery is in being lost.' I feel like I have to come full circle and I've learned all these things about myself since then and feel that going back to RAAM is coming full circle. It's as if I lost myself in 2012 and have come full circle and in RAAM 2014 I'll find myself. Doing this again is certainly not something that I've entered into lightly and there's been a lot of thinking going into it. I don't know if it's harder signing up the first time or the second time. The first time you don't know what you're getting into. The second time you know damn well what you're getting into!'” Indeed Joan. Indeed.



FUZZY’S FRIENDS: Age is Just a Number

By Vic Armijo

For Chris Stauffer of “Team Fuzzy’s Friends” that number just happens to be the fairly substantial number 82. While he’s the oldest rider to ever participate in RAAM one wouldn’t know it from seeing him yesterday pedaling between La Veta and Trinidad, Colorado with the enthusiasm and joy of a youngster. Stauffer is a member of “Fuzzy’s Friends,” a 4-rider team that also includes Lew Myer (age 80), Ann Noone (age 52) and Walt Chapman (age 70).

GRAND PAC MASTERS FOREVER YOUNG: That's Lee standing with Lew Myer seated on the right.

 This quartet is racing RAAM in memory of Lee “Fuzzy” Mitchell who passed away last August. Fuzzy was many things. While he spent years as a community college Geography, Geology, Anthropology, Ecology and Oceanography instructor in Woodland, California, to UltraCycling he was a man with a deep passion for cycling and cyclists. As a rider, he did his first Davis Double way back in 1975, went on to ride over 20 double-centuries, 3 triple centuries, and was the first rider to ever do back-to-back Davis Doubles. He competed in RAAM as recently as 2009 as a member of the Great Grand Pac Masters, a 4-rider team made up of men all over the age of 75. They finished in a phenomenal time of 8 days, 14 hours and 47 minutes.