Yesterday, I took a little field trip to witness one of the best examples of an endurance athlete the world has to offer. I got up very early for a chance to catch a glimpse of ultra-cyclist Christoph Strasser as he headed to Annapolis, MD for another win in Race Across America. This guys holds the fastest time record at RAAM of 7 days, 15 hours, and 56 minutes to ride from Oceanside, CA to Annapolis, MD. This year he didn’t go quite that fast, nearly 24 hours slower at 8 days, 9 hours, 34 minutes, but incredibly his nearest competitor was more than a day behind. No surprise, he also holds the record for greatest distance on a bike in 24 hours–556.856 miles. I had to see this guy with my own eyes, especially cause of my previous experience with RAAM.
I guess the race was having some problems with their live tracking which made it difficult for me to time a meet up with him as he descended out of the mountains of West Virginia and Pennsylvania, but after many hours of trying to track his location with a spotty signal and trying to scout a good spot for a photo, I found him and his crew.
I first saw his RV pop up over a rise in the two lane highway 16 just north of Mercersburg, PA and I knew he must be approaching. Next I could hear the sound of the loudspeaker attached to the follow vehicle with an almost constant dialogue coming from within. Too bad I can’t speak German to understand what they were saying to him. There were quite a few cars passing between him and me as I chose a spot on the opposite side of the road. He saw me, too. He’s not much of a smiler, but can’t blame him with a little over 3,000 miles under pedal and less than 200 to go. I think he was probably wondering who in the hell I was. The moment passed so quickly, after spending the entire day trying to catch him, I moved ahead two more times to get more shots.
On the street of Waynesboro, PA a man riding his bike with his young daughter stopped me to ask where the cyclist had started. When I told him California just over a week earlier, he was amazed. I think this may be one of my favorite aspects of this race because it passes through these small towns and the people generally have no idea what’s happening.
While I was waiting I came across some great scenery. It’s such a beautiful area.