Record: Cross-state, NC West-to-East, 4-man Relay, Std Bikes, Men’s Age 50-59
Riders: Chris Boone, Rich Boulter, Donny Laws, Marc Poland
Crew Chiefs: Paul Harrell, Van Roldan
Judges: Sue Pregartner, Olga Ronay
Crew: Wade Barnett, Alli Bovee, Shane Cassida, Larry Hall, Tanya Hiller, Kevin Silva, Mary Vogel, Jim Zitney,
Start: Cherokee Courthouse, Murphy, NC, Corner of Central St and Unicoi Turnpike.
End: Dare County Courthouse, Dare Co Justice Center, Manteo, NC
Each rider brought his own motives. In one case, it was the unfinished business of a former solo attempt on the same route. For others, it was the capstone to a season of ultra-distance racing or a first experience in an ultra-distance relay format. For all, our adopted charity of the Baptist Children’s Homes of North Carolina was a purpose we could embrace, raising awareness of this great organization and the work it does with troubled youth.
The recipe for meeting our goal of an under 30 hour ride (>19 mph average) included two ingredients: four riders in the best shape they could muster, and a crew that could do its part so that 30 hours of riding could be pulled off without a hitch. No missed turns, no stopped transitions, nutrition when needed, sleep when needed, and even medical care when needed. Rehearsals were key in this regard; approximately 150 miles of relay riding were accumulated during three sessions. Not a single crew member had prior experience with this relay format, but each participated in at least one of the rehearsal days, and by the start of the ride for the record all knew exactly what was expected.
The support vehicle strategy worked well, with two vans transporting the inactive riders while staying on the course, and an RV which leapfrogged the vans on ~60-mile intervals. At every other rendezvous between the RV and the riders/vans, a crew change was made, allowing two full crews of six people each (including a UMCA judge) to cycle on and off-duty at approximately six-hour intervals.
Having the metronome of regular, pre-planned rendezvous points kept things interesting – both because of the fresh faces joining the riders in the vans and also because we had a timetable for each rendezvous and we could see exactly how our progress compared to the plan.
As might be expected on any ride of this duration, we had three significant unanticipated delays of about five to ten minutes each. While these seemed horrific at the time, in hindsight they combined to cost perhaps 20 minutes, which should be expected when traversing a densely populated state. The first was a passing of the mobile Viet Nam War Memorial, complete with State Police escort and a procession of a hundred or more motorcycles. The second was a train that had stopped while blocking our intended roadway. The third was construction on a two-lane bridge, with traffic managed in single-lane alternating directions. We also had one rider fall. Fortunately, he was able to be tended to by a nurse in our second van while others remained on-course, rejoining the group within ten miles of his mishap.
We had built a timetable with a mileage point at every hour adjusted to reflect the terrain profile being traversed. The timetable was set for a 29-hour total, thinking that chasing this would ensure beating the 30-hour goal. This proved helpful logistically and motivating for all. We spent the entire duration within ten minutes of that timetable and, in the end, finished within ten seconds of it!
Ahead of the 29-hour ride were hundreds of hours of planning and rehearsal. If there is one lesson learned from the adventure, it was that rehearsals are extremely valuable. Out of 16 people on the team (riders, crew, judges), only one had ever participated in a relay-format race, yet after the rehearsals the team performed flawlessly – reacting to every unexpected situation seamlessly and allowing the active rider almost never to slow below his maximum potential speed.