Magic Race to Euphoria


Time is still trembling as I recall the tale of Team RAO Speedwagon and the Epic 2005 "Race Across Oregon", a jaunting journey of 538 miles that is better measured by climb and weather.

Our Jason was the crew leader Robert Johnson who slew the Cyclops mountains with cunning staging suiting the bike/rider to the course, outwitted the sirens of fatigue with his captaining skills and peopled his loyal crew to superhuman efforts.

Enough cannot be said about the crew, in the first thirty minutes of the race it was obvious to me that anything I did other than riding was only a hindrance, the crew was incredibly talented and capable. They nurtured the riders in the manner friends look after friends in times of need and stress. From humor to physical strength, analysis to navigation, soft female sounds to a leaders command, backing a trailer to driving a car, attention to detail to letting you rest. One common goal is an amazing thing to share and experience with a group of friends.

As for the rides the crew chief Robert only knows the plan in total but I will give you my interpretation of the race from my best perspective, which was one of four riders.

We were in the four-person team listed as HPV recumbent; we had four strong, well-conditioned riders. First was the legendary John Williams, "Rocketman", that may be more apropos now more than ever. John and his stream lined Quest were assigned the mostly under 4% descents and all long flat stretches to take advantage of its aero dynamic benefits coupled with his endurance and occasional incredibly high 130 cadence bursts that literally rocketed him down the road.

Before a long fast section, John and I had been resting in the back of a pickup with a camper shell, sitting on two mattress's that had become soaked from sweat, during the night the temperature dropped to about freezing at lower elevations and colder at summits, I came in after a 26 mile night climb during the dark early morning hours covered in sweat, we had one sleeping bag that we opened and used as a common blanket, I shook with cold for over and hour before I could control my shaking, John was having stomach problems and talking about maybe not doing the long Quest stage, Keith was there and correctly said to John, "even at your slow speed you are faster than us and you will give us a rest from the cold and wet", I told John," he would recover better and quicker riding". Then John went out to his Quest, feeling fatigued, in distress from the stomach issues and cold, got into in chariot called Quest and became "Rocketman", 30's, 40ís, 50ís, 60ís MPH mile after mile and all the time giving the other riders relief from the penetrating cold and chilling wet during the last night hours through early sunrise. At two different times an owl swooped down on him maybe after mice startled by the Quest, that had to be heart stopping. One time he had a wheel of his trike go off the road and managed to safely get back on paved surface narrowly averting a high speed crash. What a Pull! What Resolve! Thatís what its all about...the legend grows!

Then there was Keith, the most under rated rider on the team. Keith kinda looks like Robin Williams and just as sharp witted and an incredibly strong rider. He would put in such effort during his pulls that when he got off the bike may be disoriented a short time, once he was walking and looked down to see two yellow lines and wondered why there were yellow lines there and then realized he was standing in the middle of the road. If you are lucky sometime you will hear Keith tell the story as he has a unique humor and quick smile. Keith also took anything that this course threw at us, from high speed technical descents with sharp turns and occasional gravel during night hours to steep climbs miles long through the heat of day or cold of night. His main ride was a T-Bone, 700 rear with a small front wheel and underhand steering. Keith is like a secret weapon you pull out when you need a surgical strike, what an amazing performance.

Our third team rider was Michael, a tall thin man with a sharp mind for detail. Michael is a strong climber and wanted the steep long climbs. From my view I saw him as the best climber above 6% grades and he did incredible pulls every time. I rarely got to see that part of the race just because of how the rotation was but I know Michael, he was riding his Serian with Rotor cranks and light wheels. His climbs would be fast and relentless, there are some roadies from the race that would be amazed by what he did on the climbs and never thought a bent could do that. Hats have to go off to Michael for doing the arduous long steep climbs and climbing them with speed. Oh Michael, if youíre reading this, John and I figured out the average age of the racers and its 47 or Forty Seven, which ever you prefer. Anyway, Michael added an invaluable piece to the Crew Captains puzzle-solving mind with his fast paced, steep long climbs.

I was the fourth rider, I saw my talents used for high speed descents on the bodysocked GRR, excellent visibility for night riding because of the upright position, fast 4% and lower climb capability and endurance. Tried to ride according to my heart rate keeping it close to 145 BPM with occasional 150-160 on a climb. Had one incredible pull on a 26 mile uphill grade at night, was one of those times when you get on your bike and everything is perfect, weather was cool to cold on the ascent, was dressed perfectly for the temperature, over heating was absent because of the cool night air, and I felt tireless. I climbed the first twenty miles in the large chain ring at 15-18 mph with the effortless feeling of being a bird in flight. the GRR's riding position gave me great visibility of the road surface and the stiff bottom bracket allowed a constant transfer of power while the bodysock allowed me to constantly control my temperature by zipping and unzipping it as you would a shirt. At one point I saw blinking yellow lights and thought it may be the team ahead of us, as we passed the rider we could tell by his helmeted number he was a solo rider and not the four man team we had hoped, never the less this was a strong pull that added to the teams performance. It was after this pull that I could not stop shaking with cold for about an hour while resting in the back of the pickup. Takes me two words to describe this, Hubba, Hubba!!!!!!

I can talk on and on about what the crew did before, during and after the race, things like Edna putting a longer zipper in my bodysock so I could see my heart rate monitor mounted on the handlebars. Bill engineering his trailer to fit the bikes, Bruceís exact navigating skills, Jims attention to details, Tom and Bethís massages, Alex's do anything and everything fast and quiet, Mandy's calming voice and intuitive suggestions. And our crew captain Robert.... What a crew!!! We had so much fun!!!

At five miles to go came the 10% average climb up to Timberline lodge for the end of the race. The decision came from Robert for one-mile pulls, we knew we were in the lead but not by how much, ever knowing the possibility to see a rider close on us. Then we saw snow covering pine tree branches and large snowflakes falling. It was a surreal experience that made me think of Japanese poetry and a scene with a samurai during a snowfall. This was a magical time, as we ever neared the finish the elation rose and rose while we rode through this awesome visual accent, at the top, crossing the finish line only one word describes it for me, total and complete Euphoria... Everyone was hugging everyone, no one was shaking hands, friends were hugging friends, women were lifted in the air with a hug and spun in a circle, total jubilation and triumph, incredible, incredible, incredible!!!! People were being people.... friends were being friends.... something great had just happened, something greater that the sum of the whole and we all shared in it....

Dry Roads,

Rand