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Race Across America’s 30th anniversary edition gets underway

  • By Vic Armijo
  • Published Jun. 16, 2011

2011 RAAM: Race pioneers: Haldeman, Howard, Marino and Shermer. Photo: Vic Armijo

Time Station 6, Congress, Ariz. (VN) — In August of 1982 four cyclists departed from the pier in Santa Monica, California, in a race to the Empire State Building in New York City, New York. None of them knew that the “Great American Bike Race,” as it was called that first year, would still be going on 30 years later and that it would grow to what it is today.

Those original four — John Howard, Lon Haldeman, Michael Shermer and John Marino — were on hand at the start Wednesday in Oceanside, California, and commemorated that original race by riding out together to the first time station, 50 miles away at Lake Henshaw. Joining them was the race’s only six-time winner, Seana Hogan, who dominated the women’s category in the 1990’s.

Solo men

While the premier category, the Men Solo Under Age 50 boasts what is perhaps the strongest field ever, it is missing RAAM’s greatest male racer, Slovenian Jure Robic. The five-time winner was tragically killed last September in a collision between his mountain bike and a car.

Two of the favorites this year are right about where the pundits predicted. Marko Baloh, a good friend and sometime-training partner of Robic, was the leader, with Christoph Strasser, a young Austrian who has shown great speed and some good results in Europe, following just minutes behind. Third is RAAM newcomer Paolo Aste of Italy. Gerhard Gulewicz, second in 2009 and 2010, is steady in fourth.

The youngest rider in the field is 20-year-old Steven Perezluha, nephew of 2-time RAAM winner Danny Chew. “My goal is to finish, hopefully in ten days as the top American finisher,” the youngster declared in Oceanside, “I’m going to try to be conservative at the beginning and not blow up,” he added. Yet it was Perezluha who was first to Time Station 1, 50 miles into the race at Lake Henshaw. In the next 20 miles he was passed by Strasser before reaching the “Glass Elevator,” a fast and winding descent down to the desert floor where temperatures approaching 100 degrees awaited the riders. While it is unknown whether Perezluha did indeed “blow up,” what is certain is that he’s slowed considerably, dropping from being the early leader down to 19th overnight.

Women solo & 60+ men

Early solo women's leader Leah Goldstei. Photo: Vic Armijo

Meanwhile Leah Goldstein was setting a blistering pace to lead the women. The women and age 60+ men departed a day ahead of the Solo Men. While in recent years it’s been the fastest of the 60+ men who have held the lead at this point, Goldstein had at least 50 miles on 60+ men leader David Jones and on second place woman Caroline van den Bulk. Goldstein’s stated goal is to beat the average speed record held by 6-time winner Hogan — a tall order — she’ll need to do better than 13.22 mph, a speed that would beat most of the male solos!

Stats, at 8:30 a.m. PST, Thursday

MEN SOLO UNDER AGE 50

  • 1. Marko Baloh (Austria) 395.30 miles in 18 hrs 44 minutes (avg speed 21.1 mph)
  • 2. Christoph Strasser (Austria) 395.30 miles in 18 hrs 48 minutes (avg speed 21.03 mph)
  • 3. Paolo Aste (Italy) 395.30 miles in 19 hrs 15 minutes (avg speed 20.54 mph)
  • 4. Gerhard Gulewicz (Austria) 342.6 miles in 16 hours 33 minutes (avg speed 20.7 mph)
  • 5. Alberto Blanco (Italy) 342.6 miles in 16 hours 56 minutes (avg speed 20.23 mph)

WOMEN SOLO UNDER AGE 50

  • 1. Leah Goldstein (Israel) 535.80 miles in 1 day 18 hrs 15 minutes (avg speed 12.68 mph)
  • 2. Caroline van den Bulk (Canada) 482.50 miles in 1 day 19 hrs 20 minutes (avg speed 11.13 mph)

WOMEN SOLO AGE 50+

  • 1. Kathy Roche-Wallace (USA) 441.3 miles in 1 day 13 hrs 18 minutes (avg speed 11.83 mph)
  • 2. Janet Christiansen (USA) 342.60 miles in 1 day 1 hrs 56 minutes (avg speed 13.21 mph)
  • 3. Debbie Tirrito (USA) 286.60 miles in 1 day 19 hrs 15 minutes (avg speed 6.63 mph)

MEN SOLO AGE 50+

  • 1. Marshall Reeves (USA) 342.60 miles in 18 hrs 8 minutes (avg speed 18.89 mph)
  • 2. Nik Zeindler (Switz) 286.60 miles in 15 hrs 35 minutes (avg speed 18.39 mph)
  • 3. Herman Bachmann (Switz) 286.60 miles in 16 hrs 29 minutes (avg speed 17.39 mph)
  • 4. Valerio Zamboni (Italy) 286.60 miles in 17 hrs 9 minutes (avg speed 16.71 mph)
  • 5. Alessandro Colo (Italy) 286.60 miles in 17 hrs 27 minutes (avg speed 16.42 mph)

MEN SOLO AGE 60+

  • 1. David Jones (USA) 482.50 miles in 1 day 15 hrs 21 minutes (avg speed 12.26 mph)
  • 2. Dex Tooke (USA) 442.50 miles in 1 day 18 hrs 13 minutes (avg speed 10.45 mph)
  • 3. Dave Elsberry (USA) 395.30 miles in 1 day 10 hrs 28 minutes (avg speed 11.47 mph)

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