By Steve Medcroft, Special to VeloNews.com
The 2003 Insight Race Across America moved into it’s third day and the field strung out across Arizona and New Mexico by Tuesday morning. Allen Larsen leads the solo field commandingly, hitting the Pie Town, New Mexico time station at 9:00 a.m. Eastern Standard Time.
Larsen’s strategy of not sleeping until New Mexico is paying off. His impressive 14.94 mile per hour average has put him about 4.5 hours in front of rookie phenomenon Marko Baloh and almost 6 hours up on 18-time RAAM racing legend Rob Kish.
But such a risk can just as easily work against Larsen as for him. His support crew has said they will be watching Allen for signs of extreme fatigue and impose rest when it becomes necessary. Having a lead can be a great motivator though, and in a race where mental fortitude counts as much as pure physical ability, Allen’s tactic may prove to be decisive. At this point, Larsen is on pace for a sub 9-day continental crossing. The record, currently held by Rob Kish, is 8 days 3 hours 11 minutes.
But Baloh is determined to make a name for himself in ultra-cycling in his first RAAM and Rob Kish has a history of patience and the ability to come from behind and pass riders ahead of him towards the end of the potentially 9-day RAAM.
Is Larsen up to the task? Last year, you might remember, Larsen finished RAAM with a home-made backboard strapped to his torso and taped to his helmet to hold his neck as stationary as possible.
Team Competition: RAAM used to be an elite event and only open to solo competitors. In recent years though, the team competitions have brought faster paces and more thrilling racing. This year is no exception. Leaving San Diego in a Parade start Monday at 1p.m., the ten teams represented in the four-man, four-person mixed, two-man, and corporate challenge teams, began their chase of the solo field.
Off the front immediately was Colorado-based Team Vail/Go-Fast and the Austrian RAAM rookie team Harreither/VAV Versich. The two traded places on the road all afternoon on Monday and continued their duel on into the night.
Back and forth through the night, the teams switched leads. By Tuesday morning, Team Vail/Go-Fast had a lead of around 50 minutes. By Tuesday afternoon, the lead had stabilized and was holding.
The Road Ahead: Should Allen Larsen keep his pace, and his chasers stay with him, you could expect the solo field to stretch through New Mexico and make it into its short visit into Texas by Wednesday morning.
The leaders of the teams’ competition should reach Springerville, New Mexico by Wednesday morning. Ahead on the road, they may begin to overtake the tail end of the solo field. Solo riders Atilla Kaldi and Benny Furer, an athlete who has overcome the challenge of losing an arm in an accident almost twenty years ago, are only managing an 11 mile-per-hour average speed.
Race Notes: The strategies involved in the team competition are interesting. With more riders to share the load, the work can be divided into manageable chunks. To maintain the highest possible average, teams try to put riders on the road to run their 10-mile, 30-minute or so time trial pace.
Once the clock starts, it doesn’t stop until Atlantic City.
Current Standings, showing team or rider’s most recent checkpoint
(all times Eastern Standard)Solo MenCheckpoint 700.5 miles – Allen Larsen 9:00amCheckpoint 631.2 miles – Marko Baloh 7:30am, Rob Kish 8:53am,Fabio Biasioli 9:07am, Mark Patten 9:57Checkpoint 584 miles — Jure Robic 4:35am, Martin Lorenz 7:30amSolo WomanCheckpoint 477.4 miles – 3:50amFour Person Men’sCheckpoint 380.1 miles – Team Vail/Go-Fast 10:13amCheckpoint 336.7 miles – Team Harreither/VAV Versich 8:27am,Arete Racing 9:36amCheckpoint 276.8 – Team FOI 7:08am, Power of Mind 7:27am