Are we taken seriously by the race? I’d say based on our own hype we’ve been given a look (even kindly chirped on our FaceBook page by the reigning champ and his crew), but not for example near the seriousness of the Cheat Mountain Bloodhound. Why is that? Because I’m a rookie, and my entire crew are a bunch of race rookies. So then how can we take ourselves so seriously? Because I myself have over ten years of multi-day adventure racing experience, because Dennis has crewed for some of that, because Jiles and Ed have both raced and crewed some of that, because nobody expects it of us, and because I’m the Hammer that’s why.
Who’s on the radar, well watch for probably the fastest start in race history from defending champ Mr. Christoph Strasser, fresh off a blazing and near flawless victory at the Race Around Slovenia. Having set the 3rd fastest overall average speed last year, a feat made more impressive since the current course is arguably much more difficult and overall a slower road than when the record was set (mind you the great Pete Pensyers set that record in 1986 so you can imagine the equipment difference of now and then), and not a doubt Christoph wants that record.
Gerhard Gulewicz, a proven vet of many RAAM’s, twice runner up and has already proven he can go head to head with the best from his years of battling the legendary Jure Robic, and is clearly due.
Australia’s Matthew Warner Smith, a 3rd place finisher in his rookie year two years ago, he’s back for his second attempt and I’d look for him to be on Strasser’s wheel.
Swiss Reto Schoch, who won two big races in Europe last year is an anticipated contender from the European circuit.
And as mentioned there’s a whole host of accomplished rookies with legitimate odds of rustling things up.
We’ve done a lot debating for our race. Logic says this has been ranked by many as the hardest endurance race in the world, don’t get crazy. Race our own race, heed the advice and take it easy over the first couple days, race to survive. That being said, we’ll give those crazy Austrian cyclists their first few days, but how much can we afford to give? My personality says hammer down and find their wheels, hold on, it will eventually ease as the first 36-48 hrs go by, or do we stay controlled, get over the heights and then see what the east has in store. I’ve spent many a race traipsing around the hills of West Virginia, not to mention I’ve done the race route Grafton forward (and backward) so there won’t be any surprises from the course, but here’s the issue, will the guys who went off hard have recovered enough during the period we stayed steady to catch up and then be able to fend off any late attack? In the end, we will ride our race, we are as ready as we can be at this point, as is everyone else, if that puts us at the front or with the pack in the beginning, then that’s what will be, and we’ll go from there. That being said, we all know when we hit that bike path all bets are off and we’re hammering eastward, I never did learn how to spell koshun.