Lael Wilcox finishes Trans Am Bike Race 2016 in 18 days 10 minutes

 

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Lael arrives in Yorktown in 18 days and 10 minutes.  She is the first American to win the Trans Am Bike Race, her time is the second fastest time in race history, and it improves upon the old women’s record by nearly 3 days.  

Departing from Astoria, OR on the morning of June 4, 2016, an international field of over 60 riders raced to Yorktown, VA in the third annual Trans Am Bike Race.  The self-supported Trans Am Bike Race was founded in 2014, building on the growing style of self-supported bikepacking races like the Tour Divide, and popularized in a documentary film by Mike Dion called “Inspired to Ride”.  In 2014, both men’s and women’s records were set by high profile ultra-endurance athletes—Mike Hall finished in 17d16h and Juliana Buhring in 20d23h.

Lael rode to the finish on Wednesday morning, June 22, 2016.  She arrived a the Yorktown Victory Monument at 11:10AM, 18 days and 10 minutes from the start line in Astoria.  Her time improves upon the old female route record by almost three full days, and hers is the second fastest time recorded in the race, after Mike Hall.  She is the first American to win the Trans Am Bike Race.  

Lael averaged 235 miles per day for 18 days, resting an average of 3-5 hours of sleep per night.  On the final two nights of the race, Lael scaled back sleep to ride over 400 miles in about 33 hours.  Her efforts put her within 20 miles of the leader, Steffen Streich, who awoke from a 2.5 hour sleep on the last night and made a fatal mistake.  He got on his bike and began riding the route backwards.  The two met soon thereafter, on a dark road in rural Virginia near the community of Bumpass.  Here is her account of the meeting.  

Lael asked, “What is you name?”  

“Steffen.”

The two had never met, although Lael knew that she had been chasing him for over 4000 miles.  She started hammering on the pedals, and for a period of time, Steffen made chase and the two rode side by side.  Lael made a wrong turn amidst minor roads and farm fields.  Steffen indicated her immediate error, and waited at the junction with a proposition.  “We’ve been racing hard for two weeks. let’s ride to the finish together?”

“No way”, Lael said with immediate conviction.  “This is a race.”  She took off and Steffen never caught her.

As soon as she pulled away from the former race leader, her Di2 battery died.  The electronic shifting systemenables fast, crisp shifting and minimal hand fatigue over thousands of miles.  But it requires a battery, and Lael had struggled to keep it charged for more than 3 days at a time.  The system is designed to power down in sequence, losing the most power hungry functions first.  The front derailleur stopped shifting, and the rear derailleur is spared a few dozen shifts before doing the same.  Lael found a comfortable gear and singlespeeded the bike into Ashland, VA, where she switched to her spare battery, hiding behind a wall at the Sheetz gas station to avoid being spotted by Steffem.  Unable to remove the battery from her seat post— it is fit with a rubberized press fit— she simply unplugged the old one and reconnected it to the new battery and jammed it all into the frame of the bike.  It worked, and after some struggle with the proprietary seatpost wedge (clamp) on her bike, she was riding again toward the finish.  Steffen had nearly caught her at the Sheetz.

From video logs by race organizer Nathan Jones on the TABR Facebook page, Steffen spent a nearly equal amount of time at the Sheetz, eating and drinking.  Lael grew her lead to the finish, reaching Yorktown about two hours before 2nd place finisher, Steffen Streich of Lesbos, Greece.  Third place rider, Evan Deutsch, or Portland, OR, arrived on the same day, about seven and a half hours later.  All three competitors were riding within a hundred miles of each other for most of the race.  Steffen is a veteran of the TransContinental Race across Europe, and the TransAfrika Bike race across South Africa, Swaziland, and Lesotho.  Evan Deutsch is a veteran of the Trans Am Bike Race and the Tour Divide.  Lael has completed the Tour Divide and the Holyland Challenge in Israel and brings extensive cycletouring experience to ultra-distance racing. 

Follow the remaining 51 riders of the Trans Am Bike Race on Trackleaders.com.

Many thanks to Nathan Jones creating the Trans Am Bike Race.  Thanks to the Adventure Cycling Association for developing the Bikecentennial route 40 years ago, and for supporting cycling in America.  Thanks to Anthony Dryer and Nathan Jones for providing photos and video from the route from their humble “media car”.  Thanks to Revelate Designs for the best luggage in the world and the stars and stripes framebag; Mike Shupe and The Bicycle Shop in Alaska for continued support and seasonal part-time employment; Specialized for the Ruby Pro Disc UDi2 and the tubeless-aero CLX 64 carbon road wheelset with custom dynamo front wheel; the bike is a super comfortable ripper; Patagonia for the M10 shell and Alpine houdini rain pants; Intelligent Design Cycles for the SP PD-8 dynamo hub; and K-Lite for awesomely powerful dynamo lighting.  Thanks to Tailwinds Cyclists in Pittsburgh, KS; Newton Bike Shop in Newton, KS; Bill and Shawna in Afton, Lucas and Monica in Oregon, Kevin at River City Cycles in Portland, Jessica and Justin in Portland, Skyler in Vancouver, and Evan Deutsch for being an awesome friend.  Lael says “Thanks to my parents for thinking my ideas are good.” 

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Nathan Jones, race organizer, and Anthony Dryer raced across the country in a late-model sedan to capture images from the road.  Support their efforts by donating to the Trans Am Bike Race Media Fund.

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Steffen Streich of Lesbos, Greece, finishes second in 18 days 2 hours 18minutes.

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Evan Deutsch of Portland, OR finishes third in 18 days 7hours 44 minutes.

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Follow the rest of the Trans Am Bike Race on Trackleaders.com.

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32 thoughts on “Lael Wilcox finishes Trans Am Bike Race 2016 in 18 days 10 minutes

  1. Woooooo hooooo! Way to get after it! Congrats, Lael!

    (I can just hear her saying “this is a RACE” just like she did in the Adventure Cycling interview last year!)

  2. Congratulations from your other fans on Wellsley Island! Looking forward to meeting you at the River.

    Bud and Diane Ames

    >

  3. Hey, that’s the back of my head in the pic w/ me posing w/ Lael! Wish I could have gotten the autographs from SS & ED in addition to you guys’, but happy I caught a couple pics of them while running errands throughout the day (took the long way around town in hopes of getting lucky & it paid off!) My 10 year old son was blown away that I got to meet you & Lael & was stoked to see a smiling Evan finally reach Colonial Pkwy on our way home. I hope I’m raising a future “dot” as opposed to a “dot watcher” though b/c that’s where the real fun lies! All in all, I’d say damn good run to the top riders and let’s hear it for “No way…this is a race!” being the best phrase of 2016!

  4. My wife Vanesa called to tell me that she just rode 25 miles in 2 hours on her heavy Surly Long Haul Trucker. That is further and faster than she’s ever ridden before and it’s the halfway point of the ride, where she’ll have a coffee before coming home. When I told her how awesome that was and how proud I am of her, her response was: “Lael Wilcox is an inspiration!”. Thank you, Lael, for getting my wife so jacked about cycling!! You rock! Dennis Howe, Portland OR 🙂

  5. I hope you have already stumbled up on this… But if not I hope this is inspirational and maybe something you may want to chase.

    Beryl Burton a female cyclist.

    In His Grace,

    Zack

  6. LAEL WILCOX is an inspiration to us all. (Except, perhaps, for her eating choices while racing.) But maybe she is all-vegetables, all the time when she’s not racing and winning the Trans Am Bike Race in record time. What an achievement. What a lovely, amazing, tough, gracious and focused person.

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