Life in the follow car
"For 10 years RAW has attracted ultracyclists from around the globe to take on the finest terrain the western USA has to offer. Starting in Oceanside, CA and following the first 935 miles of the RAAM route, winding it's way through four states, ending up in the cycling mecca of Durango, CO.
Traveling west to east from the sandy beaches of Oceanside, over the Sierra Mountains and into the scorching Mojave and Sonoran deserts and eventually ending up on the Animas River nestled in the Rocky Mountain town of Durango. The route offers the best of the wild west!"
Thats the official description of RAW, but it doesn't tell the real story.
James Golding is a long term client of Velo Atelier and a good friend. When he told me he wanted to take on RAAM, I thought "well of course". After James smashed the 7day world record last year I had been wondering what he would come up with next and this seemed like a very natural next step.
"so we are doing RAW to qualify for RAAM and to start putting the right team together"
When James asked me to come on board to look after the bikes and his biomechanics I couldn't refuse. Its been a few years now since Ive travelled with a professional bike team but the urge never really leaves you.
The WhatsApp group soon appeared and the team started to come together virtually. Paul Morton from PMR Events was the crew chief in charge of the logistics of the event and is a guy who can sort out complicated flight plans and bookings casually whilst eating at Yo Sushi.
Ex Pro, Dean Downing, now of Downing Cycling, was on board as DS, looking after james physical well being and race tactics. Dean looked after James through his 7 day record so knew exactly how hard he could push him.
Sports Therapist and friend of the studio, Charlie Ward of CW Sports and Laryngeal Therapy was on board as soigneur, although that description hardly covers the range of jobs that Charlie threw himself at.
We also had professional photographer, Jools Dymond with us to document the trip and keep the world updated on social media.
When we all met for the first time as a group of relative stranger two days before the race in L.A. it was hard to believe how close knit we would soon become. 5 days later and with around 1000 miles under our belts with about 1 hours sleep each night, this group had become a team!
Its hard to describe the exact events of the race as they all tend to blur into one but several moments stand out for me. The scorching heat of the Arizona desert which reached the high 40's and cooked tubeless latex so that it solidified. The constant search for Ice. Mort's Gin obsession. The amazing sunsets and sunrises, fresh-Wipe "showers" in Walmart carparks. The star scape in the desert. Triple shot iced coffee.
What amazed me the most though is just how lucky we seem to have been with this selection of characters. Ive been in this situation many times and there is always the odd tired grumpiness or pointless argument that erupt due to fatigue. Not so with this group. everyone was unflappable, calm and totally devoted to the cause of getting James to Durango as quickly as possible. The constant checking up on each other, forward thinking to see how we can make things better and the selfless nature of all on board really astonished me. I think it illustrates everyones belief and confidence in James to get the job done and an unwillingness to be the weak link.
Obviously as RAW newcomers we made mistakes but were constantly learning and the team we had at the end of the three days, 14 hours and 32 minutes it took us to cover the 930 miles, was a very different beast to that which started in Oceanside.
If we can build on this start then next year RAAM will see a force to be reckoned with.
So now we are back and have mostly caught up on sleep the preparations for RAAM 2020 are in the offing and I can't wait to get back into that follow car!