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  • Tue June 26 2007
  • Posted Jun 26, 2007
The 26th edition of the Race Across America (RAAM), the toughest bicycle race in the world, included real-time, 24/7 online coverage, non-stop drama up to the final time cut-off in Atlantic City, the largest women's field in history, the first French and Brazilian solo finishers, a new Solo 60+ record, and a record number of dollars raised for charity. Leading the race through 56 of 57 time stations was Jure Robic, who now holds the cherished title of three-time RAAM winner, one of only three men to do so. While his lead was hardly challenged, a gripping race developed for second and third place between two more former RAAM winners and a RAAM soloist from 2006. Australian, Richard Vollebregt, finished 5th overall, but earned the coveted Rookie of the Year Award for being the first placed RAAM rookie. As if the solo race weren't hard enough, this year John Spurgeon, 38, of Oregon, added a new, very noteworthy level to the race, successfully completing his cross-country journey on a single-speed bicycle. Where other racers had 21 gears to mash, depending on the flat, hilly or mountainous terrain, Spurgeon only had two - one on a bike ready for the flats and one on a bike ready for the mountains! This feat earned him the 2007 Ian Sanbach Award for "Most Inspirational Racer." Although none of the five courageous women who started Solo RAAM 2007 officially finished within the time limits, it may have been this division that best captured the heart and soul that RAAM demands from its participants and earns from its fans. Halfway across the country, the last remaining solo female racer, Kerry White, was officially disqualified for missing the time cutoff in Effingham, Ill. White is a 36-year-old Vail resident with Type I diabetes who checked her blood sugar levels up to 20 times per day. RAAM Headquarters received hundreds of emails asking to allow White to continue. However, this decision was not up to race officials; in fact, there was never a question for White about the ultimate goal of reaching Atlantic City. She crossed the Finish Line on Saturday, June 23, at 1:30 pm, approximately 18 hours after the final cutoff. Her persistence and determination earned her an "Unofficial Finisher" status, and the admiration of cycling fans around the world. Forty teams in this year's race proved that the excitement and extraordinary achievement of RAAM is not at all limited to the solo race. For example, the first team across the finish line was eight-person Team Type I, racing to prove that diabetes should not have to limit one from extreme athletic activities. They also used the race to capture data and test scientific equipment that will go a long way in our understanding of how the human body processes sugars in such an extreme endeavor. Team Sixty Going Hard and Team Hoosiers, two four-man teams with an average age of 60+, beat the previous record, demonstrating that we are, as a population, indeed, getting faster as we get older! The four-man team category saw a very fast race between elite racers on Team Beaver Creek-Catlin and rookie Team Psycho. These two teams were, literally, within sight of each other for half their battle across the continent! The competition behind them was also fierce among both veteran and all-rookie teams. Many teams traded positions among themselves, proving that everyone was in "race mode." Also of note, the 4-person Kalyra Women's Race Team, composed of four California women with deep cycling resumes, beat 50% of the 4-person men's teams. Another nail-biting race took place between two teams on recumbent bicycles, out to "prove" their product. Team Velokraft and Team Bacchetta traded leads and rode halfway across the country within minutes of each other, until bad luck in the form of an injury, came down on Team Velokraft, costing time and the victory, but happily, not their entire race. The RAAM experience-solo or team--is about much more than physical strength and the race to the finish line. It is about commitment, teamwork, and lifelong bonds formed between crews and riders. "When it's over, it's not the glory of winning, it's the moments with the crew," said RAAM veteran Tim Woudenberg of Team Velokraft. "It's better than any Christmas you've ever had." RAAM is also about community. Though not a requirement for participation, RAAM racers raised over a million dollars for charities of their choice, benefiting thirty different organizations fighting cancer, leukemia, diabetes, cystic fibrosis and others, foundations that assist families of the American military, children's associations and community groups. By just passing around a basket at the two pre-race rider banquets, the racers also raised $1400 for tonado-ravaged, Greensburg, Kansas which was directly on the race route. "Most small towns cheer for our racers as we come through, but this time we wanted to cheer for them," said Jeff Stephens, VP of Marketing for RAAM, who handed the cash to the disaster relief coordinator in Greensburg for a badly-needed new generator. "We feel good about buying a tangible piece of equipment to help with this disaster relief effort" said Stephens. RAAM fans watched all of the race action unfold online, with real-time, 24/7 coverage of the coast-to-coast competition told in photos, daily videos and race updates. Other records this year included: Solo 60+ Men: David Jones with a speed of 10.52 mph (previous record was 10.31 mph) 2-Man Recumbent: Team Bacchetta with a speed of 18.07 (previous record was 16.56 mph) 2-Women 50+ Team: Team Phoenix with a speed of 14.42 (previous record was 12.81 mph) 4-Man 60+ Team: Team Hoosiers with a speed of 17.87 mph (previous record was 17.71 mph) 8-Man Team: Team Type I with a speed of 22.42 mph (previous record was 22.36 mph) 8-Man 60+ Team: Santa Barbara Bank & Trust with a speed of 17.32 mph (previous record was 17.23 mph) 8-Women Team: Heels on Wheels with a speed of 16.57 mph (no previous record!) Sincere thanks go out to hundreds of indefatigable volunteers who worked around the clock at thirty staffed time stations across the country to provide a festival-like atmosphere for spectators of all ages and the "traveling circus" of racers and crews as they passed through the community. To catch up on the excitement of this year's Race Across America, see race statistics and finishing times, and sign up for RAAM 2008, go to www.raceacrossamerica.org.

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