Missouri rollers. All images courtesy Nathan Jones and Anthony Dryer via the Trans Am Bike Race Blog.
I called Lael last night after a shop ride at Kincaid Park. Days before summer solstice, with temperatures around 80F in Anchorage, everyone in Alaska is outside having fun. We get up early, we go to bed late, if at all. We awake with the sun blasting through our windows at 4AM and do it all again the next day. I pedaled to the trails for a group ride with friends from The Bicycle Shop. We made a broad loop of the singletrack trails and even ran into a black bear in the last few minutes. As I pedaled home, dropping into an aero position on my 785mm wide handlebars, I thought of Lael and called. I wasn’t following the tracker, I just called to see if she might be awake, and if she might actually have her phone on. She keeps her phone off to save battery, and turns it on if she needs to make a call.
She answered in a small, sleepy voice. She was inside a motel room somewhere in Missouri. Our conversation was brief, mostly a series of I love yous and how are you feeling. In her sleepy voice, she said that Evan was hurting. I didn’t inquire further, but I assumed this meant that he was physically tired, perhaps achy or cramping. From the webcast at the Newton Bike Shop, we learned that Steffen is suffering from some numbness in his hands, and he seemed a bit stiff. None of this is surprising considering the distances covered in the last twelve days, and both Evan and Steffen are in their 40’s, 42 and 46 years old, respectively. Lael is nearing 30 and makes a daily habit of cross training by doing the things that she loves— running, yoga, jumping rope, swimming. In speaking with her the last few days, she hasn’t complained of any stiffness or soreness, and aside from a few trying moments, her energy levels seem high. We know she is sleeping a lot. The question is, who will make it to Yorktown first?
All three of the top riders can do it. For many miles in the middle of such races, riders typically fall into sustainable patterns to pass the distance. The drama of the first few days has passed at that time, and it would be too soon to begin racing to the end. However, the top three riders are around 1200 miles from the finish. The race to the finish starts now.
From photos on the Trans Am Bike Race Blog, Lael appears to be in good form. She isn’t an experienced road cyclist, and hasn’t owned a road bike since the early ’80’s Bianchi she rode on our first bike tour in 2008. She borrowed her mom’s Specialized Ruby a few summers ago for a series of long point-to-point rides in Alaska, as well as for the Fireweed 400 race. I’ve seen her improve her skills over the course of this race. She is now riding lower on the bike, standing when it makes sense, staying seated more than ever before, and tucking into the wind on fast descents. Now that she knows how to ride a road bike, perhaps she can race these roadies to the finish. The next few days will be exciting to watch.
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