Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Hail to the Crew

So you think you're a pretty tough ultra endurance bicycle racer and you want to try your hand at the Race Across America? Perhaps you've got your budget in line and can afford all the expenses? Well, now you've got to find 7-9 other people who believe in you enough to drop their lives and family for 2 weeks to follow you across the country. Even if you wanted to drive 14mph behind a bicycle for 3,000 miles, how many bosses/wives would let you get away for that long?

Every crew (and racer) that finds a way to persevere through RAAM deserves a lot of credit. I've been lucky to have some great friends crew for me each of the last 3 years on RAAM. It's never been easy to assemble a complete crew, but I've been blessed to always come up with exceptional people. Anyhow, on this year's RAAM my crew has been awarded the highest honor a crew can achieve. It's the Lee "Fuzzy" Mitchell award for the best crew on RAAM 2010.

I want to congratulate all of them for this great honor, and then list a few reason why I believe that they deserve this recognition:

1. For three years running we have had zero penalties on RAAM. We run clean, safe races and don't cut corners. The precedent was set in RAAM 2008 with zero penalties, and the newer crews work hard to make sure that they don't break the trend.

2. We may have played a large role in saving Terry Lansdell's 3rd place fixed gear RAW finish. Phil Cohen on our crew is not only a fun guy, but he knows a thing or two about the bicycle business. Terry's bikes were destroyed on route to Oceanside and Phil helped him get replacements in time for the race.

3. It ultimately did not help, but my crew chief tried to help Mark Pattinson get through Shermer's neck by lending him our neck brace. Mark is probably the most gifted American ultra cyclist of this decade, but he lost control of his neck muscles half way through RAAM. Gator Cochran had fashioned a neck brace for me similar to the one that Allen Larsen used in his 2003 RAAM victory. It was easily adjustable, but not field tested, and in the end Mark didn't feel safe continuing.

4. The biggest accomplishment of my crew was getting me to the finish line successfully and in a very respectable time. I'm a very average rider with average speed, so how can I finish 6th at RAAM amongst all these guys that would kill me on a 24 hour race? It's all about efficiency, and that's all about the crew.

5. My crew was very resourceful when I ran into difficulty in Ohio. I encountered muscle issues I'd never been through before. When the answers weren't apparent, they consulted my coach, cycling friends, and medical doctors to get us back on track.

6. Before ever entering, I followed RAAM for many years by computer and always longed for greater coverage. I had a vision this year of a running blog that actually kept people informed of what was going on behind the time splits. Bejan Abtahi, along with other crew members, kept the best blog in my opinion of any crew on RAAM 2010. There was no sugar coating, and if I was suffering the people following us knew it.

7. This is not uncommon, but my crew was always supportive of the other racers and their teams. I love the camaraderie at RAAM.

I want to thank my fantastic crew for all their hard effort, and also thank the members of my previous crews. I think back, in particular, to a time on RAAM 2009 when I wanted to quit and Chuck convinced me to "just ride a few more miles." If not for that speech I doubt I would have ever finished my first solo RAAM.

Here are the much deserved recipients of the Lee "Fuzzy" Mitchell best crew award: Gator Cochran (crew chief), David Bundrick, Bejan Abtahi, Roger Swanson, Danny Comer, John Weekley, Troy Willard, Phil Cohen, and Erin Cohen. Thank you!