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RAAM Update: Barbara Buatois wins RAAM in first try

By Vic Armijo

Solo women

A day of firsts
A day of firsts

Throughout her race-winning 3,00-mile ride across the U.S., observers and fans talked of how recumbent racer Barbara Buatois looked as if she were out for a Sunday ride. And aside from appearing a bit darker than she did in Oceanside, California, at the start, she still looked much the same as she crossed the finish line in Annapolis, Maryland on Sunday, finishing in a time of 11 days, 19 hours and 48 minutes with an average speed of 10.59 mph.

That speed is a bit less that the 75.4 mph streamlined-recumbent record she set last year at Battle Mountain, Nevada, or the 52.20 mph average she kept in setting the enclosed recumbent hour record at the Ford Automotive Test Track in Detroit.

And speaking of enclosed recumbents, during her podium interview in Annapolis on Sunday, her crew chief Julius Makuch said “She might try RAAM one day on a fully-faired bicycle. She will be back probably, but we don’t know if it will be next year, maybe 2012.” Buatois, who speaks virtually no English, nodded enthusiastically during that statement.

Makuch said of Buatois’ condition, “She’s ok, she’s great. It’s probably because of the laydown position of the bicycle, she is fine.” But a taped left ankle hinted otherwise. “Tendonitis, it started yesterday (Saturday),” Makuch explained. “Yesterday was a tough day for her, with the heat and the climbing. It was the most difficult day.”

Aside from some struggles on her next-to-last day, the only other problem that Buatois encountered according to Makuch, was on the first day, on the “Glass Elevator,” the 3000-foot descent down to the desert floor in Borrego Springs. “We had a technical on the downhill — the carbon fiber rim, with the braking and the heat it got a bulge and after that we put on an aluminum rim.”

Early on it was noted that Buatois’ crew was the picture of efficiency. Each pit-stop was choreographed with no wasted effort or seconds. “It was a new crew for RAAM,” Makuch explained, “So we practiced for ten days in Palm Springs. Just two hours a day but in the RAAM configuration with the follow vehicle. We practiced the stops and hand-ups.”

Sunday cruise
Sunday cruise

It was during those practice sessions that it was realized that with a low-seated recumbent racer and a high-seated support vehicle, the driver could not see the rider when the vehicle was pulled alongside for hand-ups. An effective solution was found by using a small camera and screen of the type used in RVs for backing up.

The Palm Springs sessions were also about the heat. “It was really important to acclimate so that she could get pass the desert without any problems,” Makuch said, “We tested special UV protective clothing that we used in the desert — she passed the desert without any sunburn or anything. No sunburn, she has some color, yes, sunburn no.”

With her having such a fresh appearance and seemingly a reserve of energy, it was joked that perhaps she’d like to turn around and ride back to Oceanside. She laughed at the suggestion and said through Makuch, “She has to be back to work next week. There’s not quite enough time.”

Positions have changed behind Buatois. Eighteen hours behind is Italian Sabrina Bianchi, who overtook South African Michele Santilhano some time on Saturday. Just over an hour separates the two in this battle for second. Both are expected to arrive some time on Monday morning.

Standings (as of June 20, 3:00pm EST)

Solo women

Not champagne
Not champagne
  • 1. Barbara Buatois (France) 3,050 miles 11 days, 19 hours, 48 minutes FINISHED
  • 2. Sabrina Bianchi (Italy) 2,788 miles 11 days, 19 hours, 30 minutes
  • 3. Michele Santilhano (South Africa) 2,788 miles 11 days, 20 hours, 49 minutes
  • DNF Amy Xu (USA) 2,043 miles 8 days, 17 hours, 47 minutes
  • DNF Sandy Earl (USA) 1,788 miles 7 days, 14 hours, 47 minutes

Solo men

  • 1. Jure Robic (Slovenia) 3,005miles 9 days, 1 hours, 1 minute FINISHED
  • 2. Gerhard Gulewicz (Austria) 3,005 miles 9 days, 12 hours, 51 minutes FINISHED
  • 3. Matthew Warner-Smith (Australia) 3005 miles 9 days, 15 hours, 3 minutes FINISHED
  • 4. Tony O’Keefe (Canada) 3,005 miles 10 days, 8 hours, 36 minutes FINISHED
  • 5. Thomas Strebel (Switzerland) 3,005 miles 10 days, 10 hours, 3 minutes FINISHED

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