Interview with Peter Reingruber, 1988 RAAM Winner Franz Spilauer's masseure

By Chris Kostman, UMCA #55

Originally published in the UMCA Newsletter, September 1988

More RAAM articles

Franz Spilauer placed fourth in the 1987 Race Across America and then returned to win in 1988. This interview was conducted in Glendora, CA.

What was his motivation for coming back?
The motivation for coming back was to win this year.

And if he hadn't won, would he have come again?
I don't think so. He said to me it's the second and sure the last time he would do this race.

Did he ever listen to music?
This year not. Last year he had a walkman and he was listening a lot to country music. One of his favorites is Willie Nelson's "On the road again". He likes country music, but this year he didn't listen to it.

Does he listen to country music in Austria, or only here?
No, no. In Austria also. And he plays it a little bit on his guitar.

Did your crew do things to motivate him during the race, like pull over and cheer for him and stuff? It didn't seem like it. It seemed like he raced and you guys worked and that was it.
That's true.

You weren't cheerleaders?
No. Me, I made a lot of jokes the whole trip and it works for him. I made funny names for him. He has only three or four times he had problems with the brain a little bit.

Why did he come over last year? How did he know about the race?
A friend of Franz lives in LA and is also a bike rider and Franz came over to visit him. He saw a little bit of the country and he likes the country and this was when he heard about the race. After that he wrote a letter to Mr. Marino to tell him what's going on and so he said he would like to stop his career after this race. So after last year's race, he saw he can win if everything works and nobody (in Austria) believes he finished third last year.

Because he doesn't like the heat and it's very hot here. Nobody believes he can finish third. So after this third place he said he will try it again for a second and last time. If he wins, it's ok and if he don't win, it's also ok, but he don't like to try a third time.

Did he do other races between this last year and this year or did he only train for this?
No, no. He did some small races in Austria (multi-day stage races) and he was in very good condition.

Doesn't he want to race professionally?
No, he makes bikes races for seventeen years and now he wants to spend time with the family (his wife and daughter) and make his own business, a radio and tv shop or something like that and to relax a little bit.

How long has he been on the national team?
I'm not sure, but I think eight or ten years or twelve maybe.

Did he sleep more or less than last year?
Less than last year. He makes small breaks to sit down in the mobile home and then he goes fast.

I saw him drinking coke!
I will tell you something. We have been in Denver and it was very hot and the pace car was going to a gas station. Then they were looking for him and couldn't find him. Franz had gone to a coffee shop and was sitting down drinking a coke. Then when he finished, he was going on the race again.

Did he drink a lot of stuff like that?
Yeah, a lot of cokes.

At night, too?
At night, too. Because he don't drink a lot of coke at home, but he drinks the coke here because there is a lot of sugar in it and caffeine and he needs the sugar for the brain.

He had some special drinks also? Were they made for sports?
Yeah, one was from Switzerland and the other from the Netherlands. They are hospital food. Franz's doctor brought it.

What kind of solid foods did he eat?
Fish, apples, apricots, and we made him some sandwiches with butter and jelly, but only sometimes.

Did he drink plain water also?
Not too much. And we had some special pills (vitamins, etc.) for him from the doctor which he took every hour.

Did he ever crave anything really strange?
No, nothing. He makes no problems.

What was the farthest back he ever got?
About eight hours, I think.

Was he worried?
No, not too much. Because this year he said he don't like to start very fast. He saw Bobby (Fourney) last year and he was starting the race very fast and at the end of the race he burns out. So he says he wants to start very slow.

Did he try to stay on the bike more this year?
Last year the problem was he finished third because makes too much breaks and last year he had much more problems with the brain at the end and he was stopping every thirty minutes and saying "I don't like it anymore". He also said some things that were not true. (He hallucinated.) This year he was also trying to make too much breaks for nothing. So the last quarter of the race we said to him "Look, you can not make the same mistakes as last year", so we pushed him to the front.

What did he hallucinate?
When we was in Colorado he said "I know this place. I have been on a race there before.", but he never was there and things like that. That's why we feed him with sugar this year, like a horse, you know.

Last year we came over and we didn't know nothing. We arrived at the airport and didn't know which car we need, which lights, it was terrible. We looked like a Russian team. When the teams come to Austria from the east, they have bad cars and bad clothes and so that's what we have been like last year here. We saw the big mobile homes and we had only a small car and old van. No frigidaire, nothing. We had no mileages in the old van because the odometer doesn't work.

How big was the crew this year?
Eleven people, three cars and a mobile home.

Who were his sponsors?
Mostly Duracell. And also Marriott for hotels. And Kika, that's a furniture house. And Reika, that's a bank.

Any final comments to the American public?
Stars and stripes forever!

More RAAM articles