Random Retrospections of the 1994 TEAM RAAM

By Chris Kostman, Race Director

Originally published in ULTRA Cycling, Summer 1994

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An international field of fifteen four rider cycling teams offered up an ultra competitive, record-breaking performance in the third annual Team Race Across America, held July 31 to August 6 on the 2,904 mile course from Irvine, CA, to Savannah, GA. Eight of the fifteen teams managed to break the team transcontinental record of six days, 37 minutes, set during the inaugural event in 1992 by Team Manheim of Georgia. Eclipsing the record most profoundly was Team Centurion of Austria and Germany, who posted a new record time of five days, nine hours, seventeen minutes, an average of 22.46 mph for the entire course. The former national cycling and triathlon team foursome held off a final charge by Team Manheim to win by a handy 58 minute margin.

O.K., enough with the press release material. Team RAAM is on the rise, and it shows every sign of becoming the hottest event in competitive cycling. I'm proud to serve as its Race Director and I was totally awed by the performances turned in by this year's teams. The professionalism, preparedness, organization, and especially the riding ability of the current crop of relay RAAMers is quite a shock, especially considering the incredible standard set by the teams in 92 and 93. T-RAAM is growing, fast, and is on the brink of becoming HUGE. Contributing to this growth were the five foreign teams, representing Austria, Germany, France, Brazil, and Australia. Compared to a field size of four teams in 92, eight teams last year, and fifteen teams this Summer, we're no doubt en route to some 25 teams in 95. Beyond that, we're going to need some kind of qualification or lottery process to limit the field, for the open roads of great America can only handle so much.

There were many suprises for all of us this Summer, and there's much for me to relate, so I'll keep the prose simple:

  • The pace and finishing times far exceeded my wildest expectations. The race was so fast this year that even I had only enough "spare" time for one real sleep (six hours), one sit-down meal, and two showers. Centurion was only eight hours slower than the HPV RAAM winners of 1989! Maybe next year we'll get that sprint finish that I've been predicting.
  • Foreign teams dominated, taking 1st and 3rd, plus 7th, 10th, and 12th. RAAM's finally an international phenomenon!
  • Centurion made no wrong turns the whole way, despite not having a PA speaker on their pace vehicle (they used toots of the horn or blowing a kazoo or plastic horn out the window to communicate with their rider). They also never used secondary vehicles to scout and mark the route.
  • Manheim/Powerade lost one rider for about twelve hours on Day One, due to heat exhaustion, while Centurion lost one rider for a comparable amount of time in Hohenwald, TN, due to an intense allergic reaction to a bee sting. Neither team knew about the other team's misfortunes until after the race. The Centurion rider, Toni Rattensberger, was left with a crew member for the night at a hospital, with everybody assuming that he would be out for the duration. Not so. Recovering quickly, he hitch-hiked shoeless and in his boxer shorts to the next TS, where Team Kern Wheelmen took him in their vehicle until he caught up with a waiting vehicle from his own team. Once reunited with his teammates, he was back on the bike like a fiend. During this timeframe, the German/Austrian threesome only lost nineteen minutes of their 1:07 lead over Manheim. And with Rattensberger back on on the bike, they quickly stretched to 1:15 ahead. Bearing in on the finish, Manheim captain Jim Kennedy let on that his team "just wanted to finish within an hour of Centurion." Hammering hard, they met their goal, crossing the line a mere 58 minutes behind the champs.
  • The T-RAAM finish line for Centurion and Manheim was the most exciting RAAM finish ever. Several thousand tourists were on hand, enjoying the Savannah Maritime Festival and its lazer show and fireworks display. The music was blaring and everybody was dancing as the lead teams blasted over the line. Centurion, who actually thought that all the hoopla was just for them and RAAM, immediately broke into a round of Queen's "We Are The Champions." Then showing their sportsmanship for the upteenth time, they broke into the anthem again with the newly arrived Manheim riders. It was a sight to see, all that hugging and congratulating. You'd have thought they'd just survived a war together.
  • The Kaiser Permanente / Mountain High Yoghurt women's team, made up of Stanford University students, set the standard for future women's teams, both in performance and professionalism. The full-time students and collegiate racers (aged 19, 20, 22, and 26) raised all the necessary sponsorship funds on their own and organized a crew that included top cycling coach Art Walker, Cat One racer Steve Miller, and 93 Team PacifiCare massage therapist Diane Saenz. Establishing an SF-LA record the week prior to RAAM was also a brilliant preparatory move on their part. I am particularly proud of these young ladies' performance. Hopefully they'll be back, though rumour has it that team member Megan Troxell is considering racing solo... By the way, since the Kaiser team had no other competitors in their division, a special cut-off time was established in order for them to "win." The precise mathematical formula was thus: 129.283 hours (Centurion's time) plus 15.35% (the percentage that the women's solo RAAM record is slower than the men's solo RAAM record, i.e. Notorangelo in 89 versus Kish in 92) plus the usual 24 hour cut-off equals 173.128 hours. Since the Stanfordites completed the distance in less than 157 hours, they obviously made their cut-off with plenty of time to spare. Quite a performance!
  • The Ideo/Fat City/Ringier co-ed team also set a new transcontinental record. The four riders live in three different parts of the country, but did their homework and had several RAAM-style trial runs as part of their training. It paid off incredibly well, as they placed 11th overall, and crossed the line as "official men." Their special cut-off (129.283 hours plus 7.675%—that's half of the women's bonus percentage, since this team was half male and half female—plus 24 hours equals 163.205 hours) was insignificant, as they finished only nineteen hours behind Centurion. They also did an expert job with sponsorship and plan to return in 95.
  • SCOR was back again, the only team to compete all three years. This year's entry was our first Senior Division men's team, with an average age of 64 (the equation for calculating this is 63+64+70+59=256/4=64). The SCOR boys rode an awesome race, setting their divisional RAAM record and setting a signicant precedent for future Senior teams. Hopefully they'll be back for a fourth T-RAAM.
  • The 93 champs, Team PacifiCare of San Antonio, TX, also rode a hell of a race. They had predicted they would improve over last year by nine hours, and that they did. They rode a very strong race, much more consistently than last year, and had very few problems. Yet by Colorado they were very solidly in 5th place, heading up the main pack while Centurion, Manheim, Brasil, and Kern Wheelmen steamed off the front. But the Texans stayed proud and rode hard, always doing their best and keeping their lead in the main pack firmly in hand. Entering the Shermer Zone, their team motto became "6th place is not an option." In the end, they were as gracious and sincere in "defeat" as last year when they were the champs. They hope to return in 95 with a modified line-up. George Thomas plans to race solo, while two of the other three plan to team up with two women from their powerhouse Texan USCF squad and challenge the co-ed division. Hopefully sponsor PacifiCare will support the program, but the question remains: who will sit out the race—Michael, Steve, or Will—so the co-ed team can be formed? We'll find out in 95.
  • Finally, we had our best and brightest T-RAAM staff yet: I was assisted by Aletta Nickles, who served her two brothers, father, and friend as crew chief of the 93 T-RAAM runners-up, Team Make-A-Wish. Also on hand were Booth and Barbara Hartley, who officiated in 93 as well. A real blast from the past, Mike and Tanya Morrison came on board to officiate T-RAAM this year. They crewed for me way back in 87. And as usual, Randy and Sharon Evans and Ron Heyer did an excellent job at Race HQ, while Roger D'Errico's route book was as incredible as ever. Thanks much, team!

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