Trans Am Bike Race 2016 Update: Ashland, VA

Screen Shot 2016 06 22 at 7 37 40 AM

Lael leads the Trans Am Bike Race 2016 with 90 miles to go.  Photo courtesy Nathan Jones and Anthony Dreyer via the Trans Am Bike Race Facebook page.

7:30 AM EST, Wednesday, June 22, 2016

The three leaders of the Trans Am Bike Race began the day in a familiar standing, with Steffen out front by about 50 miles, Lael in second, and Evan about 40 miles back.  Evan put a few miles on Lael in the night, taking one less hour of sleep and closing the gap for second place to 30 miles.  Steffen persisted with a short sleep on that night and was down for less than two hours.  All three riders were anxious not to lose ground, and all three riders were excited to try to gain some distance on the others, if possible.  Heavy thunderstorms arrived on Tuesday afternoon as Steffen, Lael, and Evan summited the Blue Ridge Parkway from Vesuvius to Afton.  

Continuing on to Charlottesville, it appeared that Steffen was either lost or looking for something.  He followed a unique route into town, the nature of the detour unknown considering the severe weather in the area.  It is now known that he had suffered a series of flats in the past few days.  From a brief video log on the TABR Facebook page, he verifies the flat tires yet indicates that he did not replenish his supply of spare tubes in Charlottesville, a bustling college town home to many bike shops.  Reports from race organizer Nathan Jones also suggest that Steffen was dealing with a failing GPS device, an internal issue more complex than a dead battery.  

Steffen continued out of town and kept pace into the evening.  He settled down by the side of the road just beyond the community of Beaverdam, south of Lake Anna.  He rested for about 2.5 hours and awoke at 2AM.

Lael continued out of Charlottesville several hours after Steffen, keeping pace into the night.  As he hit the ground to sleep, she continued pedaling, gaining on the leader.  Eventually, her tracker stopped for a period of about 45 minutes.  She called when she awoke to tell me that she had slept, was feeling good, and was gunning for Yorktown.  In concert with a shot of 5 Hour Energy, she was riding high into the night.

What happened next stunned all that were watching.  When Steffen awoke at 2AM, he began pedaling backward along the route.  He was riding right towards Lael!  She had closed the gap to 20 miles, and the two were now racing toward each other.  Eventually, the pink dot and the blue dot collided near the community of Bumpass, VA.  One can only imagine the brief conversation they had, and the heartbreak of learning that you have just lost a lead won over 4100 miles in a mid-night mishap.  Steffen righted his tires and rejoined the race to the east.  Both of their trackers transmitted intermittently during this period.  It took some time to see who would come out of this situation ahead.  Surely, Steffen has proven to be a much faster rider throughout the race.  But Lael recovers well and remains rested, at least as much as can be expected after a 250 miles day and a 45 hour nap.  This was her first night with very little sleep.  

Race organizer Nathan Jones reported seeing both riders together right around this time, but once the trackers transmitted, it was clear, Lael was in the lead.  As more regular tracking resumed from both devices, Lael maintained a narrow but consistent lead.  Steffen stopped briefly at one of the first junctions after their meeting, which indicated that he was indeed having issues with his GPS.  But he managed a series of turns along the route thereafter, so he had some means of navigation.

Evan stopped in Charlottesville for several hours, although it is difficult to determine his exact stopped time.  He rolled out of town around 3AM EST.

At the time of writing, just east of Richmond, VA, Lael leads with only 70 miles remaining to Yorktown, Steffen is 10 miles behind, and Evan is about 80 miles back from the leader.

It is too soon to speculate much about Steffen’s error, although a few things are known from a series of rambling video logs from Nathan Jones on the TABR Facebook page.  It is known that Steffen has suffered a series of flats and is riding without a spare tube to the finish.  His GPS has been failing him, likely requiring frequent restarts or other manual manipulation.  He is tired, as is expected.  He has been riding fast and far, and has tapered his sleep over the last few days.  It is an unfortunate error, much like Sarah Hammond’s deviation from the route in Montana.  It is a feeling that Lael knows well, as she deviated from the official track in the 2015 Tour Divide, following an older course.  Officially, she was disqualified from the race, although her time was considered valid.  As a result of this error, and the risk of GPS failure, she carries two Garmin eTrex 20 units, each loaded with maps and the race track.  She is not carrying maps.  

I will be at the finish line today as our three riders cross the line.  Over the past 17 days, we’ve come to know the way they sleep and the pace they ride, we often know what and where they eat and what kind of company they keep.  I look forward to welcoming Evan, Steffen, and Lael, along with Kai, Sarah, Benjamin, Janie, and anyone else that will arrive in the next few days.  A least for a minute, I don’t think Lael and I are going anywhere fast.  

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35 thoughts on “Trans Am Bike Race 2016 Update: Ashland, VA

  1. Yeah, was watching the dots early this morning and could not believe what I was seeing when Steffen resumed his ride. Stunning, but lack of sleep and flaky electronics could certainly cause it. A remarkable run by Lael regardless of outcome!!

  2. I am gobsmacked! Went to bed last night figuring there was no chance Lael could take the lead and woke up with Lael having a 20 mile lead! Thanks for the summary explaining what happened. This is truly a strange event where a lot of things can happen (and do). All the racers are doing a phenomenal job of getting themselves across the country self-supported. Amazing!

    • For instance, the opportunity to take the lead may not have presented itself had she slept as long as the others on that particular night. Hard work and a little luck, like anything else.

  3. Bump-ass? Really? You can’t make this stuff up. I am SO happy for Lael, however it ends. I would truly love to have been a fly-on- the-handlebars when they bumped into each other in Bumpass.

    I don’t know Steffan, but I hope he is okay. A couple months ago I managed to get totally disoriented and lost in a strange town (a REALLY strange town) and ended up pedaling back to my hotel three hours later in the dark and rain in heavy traffic. Nothing like Steffan’s debacle, of course…I suspect he is none to pleased with himself right now. But sleep deprivation (something I am getting plenty of, these days…deprivation, not sleep) will put a kink in your tail like nothing else.

    Whatever the case, I am proud of all of you. Cycling never fails us.


  4. Wow, went to bed last night figuring she had 1st female locked up barring any big problems, but this is incredible! Should come in right around 18 days even. Amazing riding.

  5. Lael has ridden away from both male leaders in this race. Actually helping the leader navigate to the finish in the end. She is a true champion!

  6. Lael has ridden away from the two top male racers in this race. Actually helping the leader navigate to the finish in the end. She is a true champion!

  7. Nick,

    It’s been forever but really enjoy reading about your and your GF’s adventures. She’s such a badass! If you guys ever ride through Idaho, be sure and look me up!

    -Stacey (Spaulding) 970.309.6774

    On Wed, Jun 22, 2016 at 5:42 AM, gypsy by trade wrote:

    > gypsybytrade posted: ” Lael leads the Trans Am Bike Race 2016 with 90 > miles to go. Photo courtesy Nathan Jones and Anthony Dreyer via the Trans > Am Bike Race Facebook page. 7:30 AM EST, Wednesday, June 22, 2016 The three > leaders of the Trans Am Bike Race began the day in a fam” >

  8. Go Lael Go. Hoping to meet the two of you at the Adventure Cycling Association Dinner in Missoula 16/07. Bring on the paparazzi!!

  9. Nick: Congrats to Lael on an amazing win!!! So cool. Hope you guys have a wonderful time in New York and travel safe, my friends.

    Blake Call.

  10. Congratulations to Lael on a hard won race! It is amazing to see all of the riders do their best while working their way across the continent, something I can only imagine. Thanks as always, Nick, for your thoughtful and timely reporting, and how you strive to cover all elements of the race.

    Lael is terrific inspiration to a couple of young girls here in Colorado. Stella and Piper are cheering!

  11. Congratulations Lael for your herculean effort and stunning success at the TABR 2016! And to you, Nick, for providing such amazing support and updates along the way.

    Lael has CRUSHED the glass ceiling in endurance cycle racing today, opening opportunity for others to follow in her draft (pun intended!). There will always be misogynists and haters in the crowd, but her accomplishments, as both a woman and endurance athlete, are undeniable.

    I am reminded of a quote by David Brinkley: “A successful (wo)man is one who can lay a firm foundation with the bricks others have thrown at him (her).”

    I wish you both continued health and success, and the financial/sponsorship means as a result of this effort, to further pursue your dreams.


    • Well said Dave. I was at work earlier and hoped to comment on Lael’s race now, but I could not say it any better than you did. We are all so very happy you Nick and Lael and hope for continuing success and sponsorship of your cycling endeavors. After all, your cycling successes benefit both you and us, the cycling community.

  12. My wife, Bobbie, and I are so happy to see Lael finish first. Our hearty congratulations!!! Lael you are an inspiration. And thanks Nic for the superb reporting.
    Huzzzah from NM

  13. I was following the race from the beginning and, as a woman, I’m so happy for Lael’s epic win. I’m less happy for the sad misogynistic comments I found online and this idea that women have always to demonstrate something more (and more is never enough).

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