Thursday, July 19, 2007

The Early Years

The Early Years

Sorry for the long delay since my last blog posting. I have been on the Elite Tour across the country in 17 days in June. Now I am on the Northern Transcontinental crossing America in 26 days during July. Most of my spare time has been used up on the tours each day. I don’t have much time to sit and compose stories for my blog. Occasionally I am inspired to write a few old time stories from the history of long distance cycling. Thinking about the Double Transcontinental got me remembering how I got involved in the sport.

In 1981 I was 23 years old. I had fair speed and okay endurance for USCF type road racing. I wasn’t really that good but I had improved from Category 4 to Category 2 the year before. I still liked riding long point to point events best. Some of the local racers asked me why I was wasting my time riding my self planned events of 200, 300 or even 400 miles in a day. These were the days when the club century in September was the longest organized event of the season. Real racers entered 30 mile criteriums on the weekends. The top 10 riders would win some really good prizes like a new chain, tires or clothing. I didn’t win anything during my weekend tours across the countryside. I still liked planning and riding those self challenging tours. The local racers didn’t like it when said I considered myself more of a tourist than a racer.

RAAM Training Mileage Goals
In recent years there has been a trend toward riding less miles and adding more intensity. There are several advantages to shorter faster workouts at a higher speed. All the factors that are used to gauge fitness are usually higher among riders who train with shorter faster workouts. Better results are measured with higher VO2 Max, watts of power generated and more time off the bike to recover. These are all good laboratory training goals. However a lot of the success of RAAM riders depends on how they can handle the other abusive factors of the race.

The 1980’s were some of the golden years for the Race Across America. Five years of television coverage by ABC Wide World of Sports made RAAM a household name. I your remember...those were the years when household televisions only had five or six usable stations. ABC’s Wide World of Sports was more watched than all the current cable sports programs combined. The 90 minutes of air time RAAM received each February wouldn’t be totally appreciated until the coverage stopped in 1987.

The Race Across America probably would have happened regardless of the television coverage. The riders were not racing for recognition or prize money. Would better riders have been attracted to the Race if the financial rewards had been higher? Would the racers pushed themselves to go faster for more prize money? Interesting question. After I won the 1983 race, I remember one national famous racer saying he would not race RAAM unless he was was paid $50,000. I said, “You could not pay me enough to race RAAM.” It all depends on what motivated people.

I think it is interesting that some of records that were set in the 1980’s still stand. The equipment used then was considered the best available. The most exotic prototypes raced in RAAM could be purchased from a basic bike shop five years later. I remember drilling blank rims to make our own 14 and 16 spoke wheels. How long would they last before my hub flange broke from the stress of an over tight spoke? Pete Penseyres and I experiments with different aerobar designs and spend hours fabricating crude prototypes from frame tubing, fiberglass and felt padding. The designs we built were cumbersome and basic. We needed a design that was comfortable and strong. Our’s worked well enough, but in a few years shiny, lightweight, adjustable aerobars were the standard on almost every RAAM bike.

The evolution of long distance cycling has continued for the past 25 years. Both training and equipment have changed the way riders prepare to race RAAM. I will try to write some more cycling stories later. In the next few months I am preparing for our Adventure Tours Across Peru. We will be delivering supplies to the schools and orphanages we support there. These tours are busy for me because of the logistic hassles but I really enjoy traveling there. I will keep you posted on how the Peru Tours are coming together.

Contact me at you have any comments or questions you would like me to address on future blogs.

more later.............


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