Trans Am Bike Race 2016 Update: middle of Kansas

 

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Live, from Newton, KS.  James and Heather Barringer curate the Newton Bike Shop experience, complete with bike service, bodywork, burgers, and beer.  Follow Trans Am racers live from Newton via a live webcam. And when there aren’t any racers in the building, expect James to provide non-stop entertainment from the #oasisinthegrassdesert. Photo grab from The Newton Bike Shop webcam.

Lael called yesterday from Eads, CO.  She stopped in town for a brief resupply and was planning to push into the night.  Tornado warnings in the area were cause for concern, although it was the mass of dark clouds to the east which was truly concerning.  Even so, Lael said she would continue into Kansas “if I don’t get caught in a storm”.  Riding over two hundred miles a day in a race across the country, dodging thunderclouds and tornadoes, makes Trans Am racers protagonists in their own Western tale.  I’ve always loved riding into, out of, and away from high energy systems.  And in a race that sometimes seems like a long slow burn, with only a few exciting moments, I now realize that every day has it’s fireworks.  For Lael: Sunday was a cut tire and a 11,542 ft pass, Monday was the threat of tornadoes, today should be the great welcoming at The Newton Bike Shop, also know as the #oasisinthegrassdesert.  

Once across the border into Kansas it appears that the threat of thunder was traded for a light tailwind, with recorded pedaling speeds over 20mph into the night.  Lael and Evan both finished their day in Scott City, KS.  Lael is planning to reach Newton Bike Shop in Newton, KS by the end of the day for planned service and some rest.  Newton Bike Shop is a unique stop on the Trans Am Route, a haven for cycletourists and Trans Am racers, a shining example of middle-American philosophy in the middle of America— Heather and James Barringer aim to provide equal opportunity service to their community, as well as to the community of riders passing through their small town in Kansas.  Trans Am riders are treated to late night bike service, restorative bodywork, a place to sleep, and perhaps even a bite to eat.  The Barringers are a colorful couple, well known in Trans Am circles, and I look forward to watching all the Trans Am racers through Kansas this year.  Connect with Newton Bike shop on Instagram as @newtonbikeshop, Facebook, and via their live webcam this week.  Even before any racers have arrived, James is already in front of the camera waving around bottles of whiskey and reading fan mail from riders all over the country.  If you want to get involved, donate to the “Build the Oasis in the Grass Desert” fund on Gofundme.com to help Newton Bike Shop grow their resources to better serve your favorite racers and all cycletourists into the future.

Lael called briefly this morning from somewhere in Kansas.  She sounded great, not even a hint of tiredness in her voice, and was excited about the final miles to the Atlantic.  She already knew that her SPOT batteries had died (Matthew tends to text racers when batteries are low), and she plans to replace them in Newton.  Steffen remains steady out front, 90-100 miles ahead of Lael and Evan, Kai and Sarah are around 100 miles behind.  The top five riders are all within about 200 miles of each other.  Their respective stopped times in Newton may shake things up a bit.

Follow the Trans Am Bike Race 2016 on Trackleaders.com.

In other racing news: The archived pink LW ITT bubble is also fun to watch on the Tour Divide Trackleaders page, although the data reflects Lael’s  “call ins” last year, as she lost her Spot in northern Montana  Later, near Lima, she got stuck in the mud for a period of about 12 hours.  Mike Hall is setting the course on fire, riding well ahead of record pace.  Josh Kato should be in second, although his tracker has been inactive for some time.  Chris Plesko is putting out a really strong effort, vying for 2nd or 3rd place right now, on a singlespeed.  Follow the Tour Divide 2016 on Trackleaders.com

And for real, give those guys at Newton Bike Shop some money, they’re doing great things out there.  I donated $50 this morning in Lael’s name.  Consider doing the same to help them achieve their mission to help others.

Trans Am Bike Race 2016 Update: Breckenridge, CO

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Lael and Evan ride through Breckenridge joined by a Trans Am cycletourist, and our friend Kyle who is behind the camera.  All images courtesy of Kyle Sheehan. 

Lael called from Breckenridge, Colorado.  She reported a sliced tire earlier in the day, just before Hot Sulphur Springs, CO, which she repaired by removing the tubeless valve and reinstalling the tire with a tube and a tire boot of some sort.  The whole procedure, from archived tracking data, took relatively little time.  Lael stopped in Breckenridge to replace the tire at a bike shop.  The shop offered to mount a new road tubeless tire, but for fear that the process would take more time than is worth it she selected to get out of town as soon as possible on a new tire and a tube.  Too many road tubeless tires are impossible to mount and remove by hand.  Lael has planned service at Newton Bike Shop in Newton, KS, a well-known stop for both racers and cycletourists on the Trans-Am Route.  Check them out on Instagram as @newtonbikeshop for a good time.

Lael, Evan, and Sarah all left Walden, CO yesterday morning at the same time, around 3:30AM.  Sarah rode today at less than her previous pace, although she managed a longer day than yesterday.  Still no reports about Sarah’s exact condition, although Lael said she “didn’t look good” when they rode past each other yesterday.

Our friend Kyle Sheehan joined Lael, Evan, and the unnamed cycletourist up Hoosier Pass south of Breckenridge.  We met Kyle back in 2010 after our first Baja trip, when I took a job for a few months at Velo Orange in Maryland.  We’ve since run into him in a few places around the country, and he is currently living near the Trans Am Route in Colorado.  He reports, “I honestly have no idea how Lael is doing that many miles every day.  I’m in awe.  Attached is what I took, unfortunately not much  because I was getting pretty worked keeping up with those two.  The one of us rolling out of Breckenridge also pictures this dude on a tour who had veritable suitcases on his rear rack, really liked to talk about weed while riding 2x on a sketchy road, and who totally destroyed the pass.  He summited way before us.  The picture of the first switchback you can make out Lael going around the turn and Evan a little ahead.  It was steeper than it looks, and only got steeper.”  He adds, “She seems to be doing great, super positive and pumped on the ride!”  Thanks Kyle!

Also, check out this short video of Lael riding into Breckenridge, CO yesterday, shared by Eric Morton on FB.  Thanks Eric!

Lael and Evan dropped out of the mountains last night around midnight, reaching Cañon City at the end of the day after their 3:30AM start in Walden, CO, traveling a total distance of about 246 miles.  Daytime temperatures in eastern Colorado and Kansas are expected to increase during the week, with highs over 100F.  Thunderstorms are predicted for late afternoon and evening on Monday.

Steffen holds a 100 mile lead out front, Lael and Evan continue together, Sarah is another 40 miles back, and Kai’s tracker is stopped in Hartsel, but Is suspect he is well beyond by now as that’s very near where he camped last night.

Follow the Trans Am Bike Race 2016 at Trackleaders.com

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Thanks Kyle for the update and images!

Trans Am Bike Race 2016 Update: Kremmling, CO

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Trans Am Bike Race leaders will descend out of the mountains today, headed for the flatlands of eastern Colorado and Kansas.  Steffen, Evan, Lael, and Sarah make up the top group, while Steffen clings to a 90 mile lead.  All images by Nathan Jones and the Trans Am Bike Race blog.

Lael called yesterday just after I posted an update from our conversation the night before in Lander, WY.  I don’t remember where she was at the time, the wind was overwhelming the microphone on her flip phone.  She sounded great, fully energy, her voice was healthy.  I asked how she liked riding with Evan, since she’s never much liked riding with anyone.  She said it helped that the two of them were riding a similar pace, and when riding within range of each other they are loosely racing each other, more like a constant reminder to keep the pace moving.  It reminds me of the tactics employed by riders in the professional peloton to chase down the leaders, except this race is over 4200 miles on one stage.  

Steffen is riding very strong out front, getting plenty of rest and pushing a fast pace during the day.  

Sarah made a very short day yesterday, riding less than a hundred miles from Saratoga, WY to Walden, CO.  She stopped in Walden around 2:30PM for about 12 hours, and seems to have spent much of that time at a local motel.  Lael rode from Jeffrey City, WY and arrived in Walden, CO in the evening just after dark and stopped for a nearly six hour rest, so both female riders should be well rested.  However, it seems likely that Sarah may have slowed during the day and stopped early for more than just a few extra hours of sleep.  During such extreme endurance challenges, many strange ailments may arise to challenge a rider.  At the time of writing, I do not have any clear information about her condition, although she is riding strong this morning, which is a good sign.  I hope she is able to continue the race in her own style.  I know how hard it was for Lael to race the Tour Divide last summer while suffocating through Canada and Montana.

Lael, Evan, and Sarah all left Walden, CO within five minutes of each other, and they continue to ride within 5 miles of each other this morning.  Steffen is about 90 miles ahead of the newly formed chase pack.  His lead over Lael and Evan has diminished slightly since yesterday, although they still must climb to the highest point on the route today, over 11,542 ft Hoosier Pass.  Thereafter, the route dives eastward out of the Rocky Mountains and onto the plains of Kansas and into the Ozark Mountains of Missouri.

Follow the Trans Am Bike Race 2016 on Trackleaders.com.

 

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Trans Am Bike Race 2016 Update: Lander, WY

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Evan and Lael cruising the Trans Am together.  Riders are prohibited from drafting, so riding together isn’t exactly a strategy to shave time, but it gives you something to do when pedaling over 200 miles a day. Photos by Nathan Jones from the Trans Am Bike Race blog.

Lael called yesterday from Lander, WY.  She was in good spirits, although she mentioned that she felt woozy.  She had just consumed a bottle of chocolate milk, which relieves me to know that she is still taking the magic elixir of animal fat, protein, and high fructose corn syrup that is so widely common across this country.  She joked a few more times, “I feel woozy”, and for lack of anything else to report she repeated the phrase over and over— “I feel wooo-zy”— each time adjusting her inflection in the way that she and her sister always do when together.  They’ve done this for as long as I’ve known them, locating the nearest funny word in the conversation and repeating it until the whole thing explodes in giggles.

Lael and Evan have been riding together for several days, since the top of Lolo Pass.  This is a curious move considering Lael doesn’t like riding with anyone, and sometimes won’t even ride near me, choosing to trail behind instead to ensure her own mental space.  

Steffen and Sarah remain strong out front, Lael and Evan are trailing by about 100 miles, Kai rounds out the top five and the rest of the pack is over 100 miles behind him. 

Follow the Trans Am Bike Race 2016 at Trackleaders.com.

Below: Lael rides in the white helmet and grey t-shirt, Evan has a blue helmet and yellow jersey, and Sarah has a white helmet and purple jersey.

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Head over to the Trans Am Bike Race blog for daily photo updates from race organizer Nathan Jones.

Trans Am Bike Race 2016 Update: Togwotee Pass, WY

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Photo courtesy of Michael J. DeVitt via Facebook.  

Lael called this morning while climbing Togwotee Pass.  She battled a headwind early in the day on Thursday, heading south toward West Yellowstone, that slowed her pace to well under 10mph.  Evan came up from behind and suggested that that the two of them push a faster pace, just to get it done.  This helped, and eventually the winds died or the road turned.   The two rode near each other all day and agreed to ride together for some of the dark hours of the night toward a lodge or a hotel along the road on the pass.  Nighttime temperatures are cold in these mountains, and conditions will remain that way along the race route until riders drop out of the Rockies and onto the Great Plains, where hot and humid temperatures can be expected both day and night.

Lael rode 240 miles yesterday with some headwinds and substantial climbing, passing through Yellowstone NP.

Steffen and Sarah continue their dominance out front, Evan and Lael are steady and strong, and Kai follows close behind.

Follow the Trans Am Bike Race on Trackleaders.com.

The Tour Divide also started this morning in Banff, AB, CA with nearly 180 riders registered for tracking.  The field includes veterans Mike Hall, Seb Dunne, Josh Kato, and Joe Fox, among many other strong competitors.  The women’s field has narrowed this year, with only 12 female competitors, chasing each other and Lael’s route record.  Jackie Bernardi and Jan Bennett appear to be the women to watch.  The men’s race, and possibly the men’s record, is expected to be a very strong contest.  Follow the Tour Divide at Trackleaders.com.

Trans Am Bike Race 2016 Update: Ennis, MT

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Joan, the mother of a college friend, now an avid cyclist and one of Lael’s biggest supporters, out on the Bitterroot Trail south of Missoula, MT.  Joan’s daughter Erin joined us for several weeks of riding in Baja this winter and is currently staying with Lael’s family in Anchorage, AK.  The more you travel, the smaller the world gets.  Thanks to Joan Nugent for this photo!  More great photo updates from Nathan Jones on the Trans Am Bike Race blog.

“This is harder for me than the Divide”, she says.  I empathize, but nothing I say will convince her that I understand, and I know I can’t fake it.  Riders in the Trans Am Bike Race and other events have reached a place that few others will understand.  For Lael, on her second Divide ride last summer, the feeling was alienating.  Participating in a group event like a race makes it easier.  Even so, the people they meet along the way won’t understand the rigors of 200+ mile days, for multiple days.  Even though we’ve become accustomed to watching dots move at that pace across the country, we have to remember that these riders are earning every pedal stroke.  Every revolution is work.  

Lael called while pedaling south out of Ennis, MT this morning.  She enjoyed her ride yesterday, reporting aching knees after “crushing” the climb over Chief Joseph Pass.  Temperatures have normalized, and as riders pass into Wyoming and Colorado they can expect cold nights, reaching down to freezing temperatures in the highest part of the route in the mountains of Colorado.  The lead pack will exit Montana today and ride into Wyoming and Yellowstone National Park.  When I suggested the ride today would be scenic, Lael reminded, “I’m doing my best”.  These are the words she often uses, “I’m doing my best”.  I’ve come to learn that without a clear plan for each day, Lael’s plan for these kind of events is simply to do her best.  Makes sense.  Remember when watching dots move on the screen, these riders are all doing their best.

Follow the Trans Am Bike Race 2016 at Trackleaders.com.

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Trans Am Bike Race 2016 Update: Lolo, MT

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Lael riding along the Salmon River in Idaho.  Photo courtesy of Trans Am Bike Race organizer Nathan Jones.  Keep up with his images and reports on the Trans Am Bike Race Blog.  More race chatter in the Trans Am Bike Race Facebook group.

Lael called while leaving Lolo, MT this morning.  She described the ride over Lolo Pass as “long and slow”, not surprising after several days of heat and 200+ mile days, although cloudy skies minimized exposure during most of Tuesday.  The actual road grade to the top of Lolo Pass is mild, until it steepens at the top, and ascends just 4000ft in 100 miles.  Lael reports being unable to ride fast, although she can still stand and climb in a way that satisfies her.  Standing while riding is Lael’s hallmark, and while both unconventional and inefficient, that’s the way she likes to ride.  She hopes to regain some spark and some speed in the coming days and weeks.  

Just before the top of the pass last night, Lael’s Di2 battery lost power.  The battery transmits signals from both shifters and powers both derailleurs, and is meant to be charged from a USB port.  The average user might go months without charging, the average ultra racer might go a week or more and several Trans Am racers and one Tour Divide racer report only a single re-charge for the duration of the event.  The battery was fully charged in Astoria, which makes this the shortest amount of time I’ve ever heard for a full Di2 battery cycle.  Aside from her standing technique, Lael also shifts a lot.  She’s neither the fastest nor the most graceful cyclist, but she can ride for a long time.  There is a small chance that her battery is otherwise faulty and not holding a full charge, but I wouldn’t immediately suspect that.  She is carrying a spare battery, fully charged.  To remove it from the inside of the seatpost we installed a piece of string to the battery, which is installed with two rubberized gaskets making a snug fit into the inside diameter of the post.  While stopped last night on the pass, Evan Deutsch rode up from behind.  Lael was thinking about replacing the battery with the spare, but he suggested continuing with the single gear ratio over the pass and checking the lodge on the other side.  They both stayed at the Lolo Hot Springs RV Park last night in a rented cabin, and Lael charged the battery.  It seems to be working just fine this morning.  While she had planned a little more sleep last night, the incident inadvertently gave her the opportunity to rest well.  She likely washed her face— a shower is unlikely— and feels better from the brief time inside.  This isn’t her desired MO, but I can see the silver lining.    

We’d planned to charge the Di2 battery from the dynamo, but Lael told me the B&M USB-Werk charger has not been working since sometime on the first day.  I’ve had one of these devices fail in the past, except in this case I suspect the issue is with the K-Lite system.  Her lights are performing flawlessly, and they have since we received them last fall before her Arizona Trail ITT, but I’ve had three separate devices connected to this system and they’ve all failed to provide power, and I now suspect some part of the system has damaged these devices.  The first USB-Werk I wired was in Arizona last fall, which was a well used unit that was previously working.  I assumed it had failed, Lael used batteries in her GPS on the AZT, and I thought nothing of it.  This spring, I ordered a new USB-Werk and installed it, and was never able to receive USB power from it.  I tested it directly to my own dynamo hub and couldn’t produce any power, so in this case I assumed a faulty unit.  I ordered a third unit immediately, and once I received it I wired it directly to my hub to verify that it worked, which it did.  I shipped the new unit to Lael in Portland and she had it installed at River City Bicycles.  She claimed it worked (in passing, in a brief conversation while still in Portland), although from her most recent report the USB-Werk has not worked since the first day, so I’m not sure if it worked at all.  

What this means is that she will have to recharge the Di2 system at some point along the way.  Charging time from a wall outlet is claimed to be 1.5 hours, so the duration of the charge is not a problem, but it will require her to tether herself to an outlet for some time.  Presumably, she will do this at night while sleeping, either by finding an outdoor wall outlet (in a park or pavilion), or in a motel.  She has already planned service at the Newton Bike Shop in Newton, Kansas, so she will certainly charge it there.  Perhaps the battery will last longer this time, perhaps by accident it did not receive a full charge in Astoria, perhaps, perhaps, perhaps.  Wondering about electronics is not the reason she is out there and she is happily pedaling forward, taking it as it comes.

At the time of writing, I received another brief phone call from Lael— the kind where you didn’t say I love you and I miss you enough times in the previous call so you have to call back a few minute later.  She was riding into Hamilton, her energy restored, totally enthused about the ride ahead of her, planning to tackle another 200 miles today, and reporting that she felt like she got her energy back!  She was so excited, it lifted my spirits to know that she was having fun again.  If it isn’t fun, why do it?  

Steffen and Sarah are riding strong out front; Lee has dropped back, likely due to dehydration and exhaustion; Kai Edel put in a big day yesterday and has caught Lael and Evan.  Several hours ago, Sarah Hammond was the first to ride into Wisdom, MT and continued off route towards Wise River, failing to turn south at the western edge of town.  It is not yet clear if this is intentional, or a mistake.  She is almost 3 hours from Wisdom.  Should she return to the route, she would be required to rejoin the route in Wisdom, and the rules would allow her to seek or accept motorized transit to the point at which she left the track.  She has just stopped in Wise River, so hopefully she discovers her mistake.  Wise River is a minor resupply on the Great Divide route, although the two routes are meant to meet further south near Polaris, MT.  Stefan has continued along the prescribed track, turning south on Hwy 278 toward Bannock and Dillon.

Edit: Sarah Hammond is traveling toward Wisdom at 18mph, indicating that she is riding back to the track.     

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Trans Am Bike Race 2016 Update: Riggins, ID

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Evan, Lael, and Lee ascending the Whitebird climb away from the Salmon River in Idaho. 

The Trans Am Bike Race continues with high heat and low humidity, slowly climbing to elevation over each successive pass.  The top five racers— Sarah, Steffen, Lee, Lael, and Evan, in order— crossed the Snake River into Idaho yesterday and will cross into Montana today, immediately greeted by a the prolonged climb over Lolo Pass.  Lael reports feeling healthy from Riggins, ID,although daytime temps are still challenging for the pace and distance these riders are pushing.  She slept last night for two hours, started riding again, and quickly realized she needed another hour.  Thankfully her bivy is quickly accessed in her framebag.  Both Sarah and Steffen have taken a substantial lead, averaging now over fifty miles ahead of Evan, Lael, and Lee.  The race is long, and the nature of the terrain changes with time, as does the individual rider experience.  Lee’s pace seems to be slowing, while Evan and Lael remain consistent.  Steffen is pushing fast during the day, and sleeping longer an anyone else in the top field, stopping early and resuming again in the middle of the night.  Sarah Hammond continues to ride fast and far, and finally stopped for about three hours last night, her longest overnight rest.

In just over three full days of racing these tope riders have passed over 800 miles of the Trans Am Route.  The race should continue for about two more weeks.

Follow the Trans Am Bike Race 2016 on Trackleaders.com.

Trans Am Bike Race 2016 Update: Baker City, OR

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The race breathes as riders pedal faster and slower, as they sleep, as they resupply, and as they maintain their bikes and bodies.  Here, three male competitors are overtaken by two female competitors. Bottom photo courtesy of Good Bike Co. in Prineville, OR.

The top group of riders began riding very early on Sunday, the second day of the Trans Am Bike Race, by finishing the 5000ft climb over McKenzie Pass  Most riders in the front field started the day with relatively little sleep.  One rider, Steffen Streich did not sleep at all on the first night and continued riding strong through the second day.  However, by the second evening, a few hours before dark, his tracker stopped in Prairie City and it did not push out of town until until about 7 hours later, just past 2AM.  By that time, two other male riders, Lee Farncourt and Evan Deutsch had convened in town, all closing their eyes for some time.  Sarah Hammond passed all three male riders in Prairie City and climbed out of town, pressing into the late hours of the night and taking only one hour of sleep Sunday night.  Lael, whose relationship to the other lead racers has ebbed and flowed through the changing terrain, and in relation to sleep and resupply patterns, was as little as 10 miles from Sarah in Prairie City last night.  Lael also rode straight through Prairie City, passing those same three male riders, and climbed out of town to sleep for the night.  She set an alarm for 3 hours later.

As the night’s events played out Sarah remained in a distant lead this morning, although Steffen’s exit from Prairie City around 2AM put him within range of the leader at sunrise.  Evan and Lee left Prairie City this morning and were joined by Lael en route to Baker City, all three riders within ten miles of each other.  These five riders appear to have a growing lead over the remaining field.  Both Steffen and Sarah have sacrificed sleep in the first two nights, while Lael, Evan, and Lee have committed to more conservative 2-4 hours sleep patterns in the first two nights.  All five riders have strong experience, and have proven the capacity to ride fast and long, with few stops.  Evan Deutsch finished 3rd in the Trans Am Bike Race in 2015; Lee Farncourt has competed in several ultra-distance cycling events, including the World Cycle Race (although officially disqualified) and claims to hold 4 officially recognized Guinness records in cycling, and is aiming for more recorded accomplishments in the future; Steffen Streich won the TransAfrika Race in South Africa in 2015, a self-supported road race similar to the Trans-Am; and Sarah Hammond is the first women to have “everested” a mountain, accumulating the total vertical ascent of Mount Everest by climbing Australia’s Mount Buffalo 8 times in 18 hours, and is sponsored by 2015 Trans Am race winner Jesse Carlsson and his Curve Cycling brand back in Australia.  The front of this year’s Trans Am field is stacked with talent and experience.

Lael called briefly leaving Baker City and was hoping to get her legs moving a little quicker today, describing a lack of lightness on the pedals, likely the result of general fatigue and light dehydration.  She said she was a little disappointed, but reported no further physical ailments and her voice sounded as clear as ever.  Yesterday was as hot as the first day of the race, climbing well past 90F in a drier climate now that the race has crossed east of the Cascades.  Lael reported jumping into water twice during the heat of the day, fully clothed and still wearing her red shoes.  She rested well last night and looks forward to the day, which is much cooler than yesterday.

Follow the 2016 Trans Am Bike Race on Trackleaders.com.

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Trans Am Bike Race 2016 Update: Sisters, OR

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Lael riding upstream along the McKenzie River, her K-Lite dynamo light showing the road.  For a detailed account of the long road to the Trans Am, check out my last post entitled “Arizona to Baja to Alaska to Trans Am”.  All photos: Josh Spice

Lael called yesterday leaving Corvallis, OR, no doubt riding one-handed while riding down the road with her phone to her ear.  She never calls while riding into town or in town, she only calls once fully restocked and rolling out of town.  She described her first day as a “scorcher”, with temperatures into the high 90’s, maybe close to 100F in some places in Oregon.  Temperatures over the next couple of days are slowly cooling.  The 4250 miles Trans Am Trail travels cross-country via paved road from Astoria, OR to Yorktown, VA, passing into more arid climates on the east side of McKenzie Pass and the Cascade Mountains  Most of the route in the next week, between central Oregon and Kansas, will remain above 2000ft, topping out at 11,542ft on Hoosier Pass south of Breckenridge, Colorado, meaning somewhat cooler temperatures and cooler nights.  Most of the west is experiencing high pressure, high temperatures, and clear skies at the moment.  Lael grabbed a load of McDonald’s sandwiches in Corvallis.

Even before I could ask Lael how her breathing was, I could hear it in her voice.  She sounds good, in fact, she sounds great!  She battled a lingering cold for several weeks leading up to the race, so much that on her final riding days down to Portland I forbade her from riding a 104 mile day into Portland in the rain.  Instead, she checked into a $39 motel along I-5 in Centralia, WA and rested.  She walked to the local book store and found a pocket sized copy of HUD by Larry McMurtry.  On the second morning, with more rain and static health, I suggested she stay another day, knowing that once in Portland she would be committed to spending time with family and friends.  It isn’t easy to get Lael to sit still.  In these two days she watched a half-dozen motivating ESPN documentaries about basketball teams from her childhood including “Winning Time: Reggie Miller vs. The New York Knicks” and “Survive and Advance” the story of the 1983 NC State Wolfpack and coach Jim Valvano.  Before ultra-cycling fame Lael was a distance runner at the University of Puget Sound and in several ultra competitions, a competitive soccer player on the Alaska Goldstrikers while in high school, and a dedicated junior high basketball player.  Basketball was her first love, and there are few people our age who didn’t love the NBA in the 80’ and 90’s.  Over those two days, we’d call each other and make recommendations for motivating sports films we’d found on Netflix.   

Lael called in again this morning leaving Sisters, OR.  Her breathing is still as near 100% as I’ve ever heard during an event, and she reports feeling great and getting “great, restful sleep”.  She said that her breathing improved through the first day, likely the result of a conservative pace and a commitment to riding her own race.  Warm temperatures, low elevation, higher humidity, and low anxiety are likely to thank for her positive health after a 285 mile day from Astoria to the base of McKenzie Pass.  Even during the second Tour Divide ITT, in which she averaged nearly 200 miles per day for the first five days, she had symptoms of breathing problems, similar to her first TD ride, so it is really encouraging to hear her voice as strong as it is.  

Lael was joined last night by our friend Josh Spice, formerly of Fairbanks, who recently moved to Eugene, OR.  Josh rode with Lael for a bit up the McKenzie River until she decided to wind down for the night.  Lael slept last night behind a sign that said “No Entry”, to be away from the road, and reports no bugs or moisture.  After such a warm day, nighttime temperatures were likely in the low 60s or high 50s.  Passing through Sisters this morning she purchased goods from a Mexican grocery, packing several burritos into her framebag.  On a sunny Sunday morning, she saw lots of road riders on her way down the east side of McKenzie Pass.  From the Willamette Valley on the west side of the Cascades, McKenzie Pass is the single greatest elevation gain on the Trans Am Route, from 200ft at the river to 5335ft at the top of the pass.

There are currently four riders ahead of Lael including Lee Fancourt, Sarah Hammond, Evan Deutsch, and Steffen Stretch.  Lee and Steffen rode long and fast yesterday, and while Lee took a solid night’s sleep on the pass, Steffen pushed through the night and seems not to have closed his eyes since before the race start.  All of these riders are maintaining incredible riding speeds and are slowly pulling away from the main field of riders.  The top five riders should be through Oregon sometime tomorrow.  The Trans Am Trail and the Adventure Cycling Association (formerly the Bikecentennial organization), who first published the route back in 1976, are celebrating their 40th anniversary this year.  Lael and I plan to travel to Missoula, MT in July for the Montana Bicycle Celebration.  Join us in Missoula for the biggest cycletouring celebration of the summer, as well as an exclusive Baja Divide presentation at Free Cycles on July 14th.   

Thanks to Lucas O’Laughlin and Monica Garcia for providing support before the race in Astoria, and for all the help last summer at the end of the Tour Divide.  Lucas and Monica keep moving around the country, coinciding with Lael’s race starts and finishes.  Also, great thanks to Josh Spice for these awesome images of Lael in action in the night, not an easy thing to capture while handholding a camera and riding in the dark.  Check out this video clip that Josh recorded while riding alongside Lael last night. 

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