350 Miles to go and Team Strong Heart has found themselves in a race for third place! Today has been hot hard and hilly in the Appalachians of West Virginia. Greg and Neil pulled an overnight 7 hour shift with Tim/Bernie now on the road. Neil and Greg are prepping to get back on the road. The lead they had over VMG has shrunk since they got to the hills. The Strong Heart guys are big flatlanders, for example they smoked through Kansas, but the VMG guys are smaller and better climbers. So this is making it interesting. Strong Heart has decided to fight for third and are changing their strategy. They are going to put the teams out for shorter intervals to try and make it quicker through the hills.
I finally got the interview I have been waiting for, I finally talked to Neil! He said it has been an amazing journey. He said RAAM actually stands for "Racing Across Americas' Worse Roads". Before RAAM started, he saw a statistic that said 95% of this years participants were rookies, and now he knows why. Do it once and you aint coming back. He said the one word that describes the trip is "Filth". It's the most filthy thing he has ever seen. The RV is a total mess, with no time to clean it. The riders go through 2-3 kits per day, so they are washed and hanging all over. And the high carb diets aren't friendly to the gastro-intestinal system. The four riders are like out of a Dr. Seuss cartoon "Horns out of a_ _ es"! Thus causing a strange mix of nauseus odors!
He said the crew has been amazing the way they have come together. Greg's friends Mike/Rick have been especially entertaining on the night shifts. The race itself is very "manic" you can go from it feeling like the best day of your life to man this totally (expletive deleted) in about 30 minutes. It is a physical and emotional rollercoaster. I asked Neil if he was going to keep his legs shaved, and he thinks so! His wife was initially against it, but right before he left, it was hmmm, not bad. And from the narcissistic cyclist view-point, it makes one feel stronger, to look down and see the muscles, I told Neil that the only reason I continue to cycle is so I have an excuse to keep my legs shaved!
Amazingly this journey is about over, and right now they are experiencing the toughest day of the whole journey. Neil said that the Appalachian climbs aren't as long as in Colorado but much steeper. It would be nice to finish on the podium in 3rd place, but it's not a motivator to Neil. As always he just wants to ride his bike and share with others the beauty of his personality. He really can't wait to get home, and he will be coming home to a hero's welcome, as we are all extremely proud of these guys! GO TEAM STRONGHEART!!!