Rich tradition of Vail riders in Race Across America continues
May 7, 2008 —
The history of the Race Across America is a long one, filled with thousands of great stories. Iíve only heard a few in passing, mainly because of the close ties the race has had with the Vail Valley through its many competitors over the years.
Between the triumphs, the losses and the amazing fights to overcome huge obstacles, the few athletes from the Vail Valley who have taken this on have not only represented our community in a positive light, but have also demonstrated superhuman strength.
This year my sister, Kelli Anthony Rohrig, is joining a British-organized, womenís four-person team with veteran Kerry White. Theyíre riding for the Bobby Moore cancer fund.
So now Iím really intrigued by the race, and with the recent loss of close friend Mike Janelle, a three-time winner of the race, I am proud to think that Kelli and Kerry will have Mike on their shoulders.
The concept of a bicycle race across America can be traced back to newspaperman George Nellis, who in 1887 crossed the USA on a 45-pound, iron, high-wheel bicycle with no gears and pedals attached directly to the front wheel. Following railroad routes across the country, he made the crossing in just under 80 days.
Every 10 years or so, the record would be reduced by a few days, but it was not until the 1970s, when John Marino got serious about finding how quickly a bicycle could be ridden across the country that the modern movement of trans-national cycling competition began.
Other riders began challenging the marks made by Marino, and by 1982 a group of riders decided they were ready for a head-to-head race. In its first year, the Race Across America (RAAM) was called the Great American Bike Race. Four riders lined up on the pier in Santa Monica and raced to New York.
The winner was Lon Haldeman. Since then the race has been run every year, always west to east. In 2008 the race begins in Oceanside, Calif., and finishes in Annapolis, Md. With its mid-June kickoff, RAAM starts close to the summer solstice to provide competitors the maximum number of daylight hours.
Vailís connection to the RAAM has been an extensive one. The Vail menís team, which has changed members over the last four years (with the exception of Janelle), won the event three years in a row (2005-07).
Past Vail menís teams have included: Mike Janelle; Zach Bingham; Toph Leonard; Nat Ross; Brett Smith; Jimmy Mortensen; Adam Palmer; and Brett Malin.
Malin was killed during the event in a tragic accident he turned back on a rise to meet the support car and didnít see an 18-wheeler coming.
The Vail womenís teams also won three the event three straight years (2004-06), changing a bit every year. This year, however, Vailís White has been recruited by the British TEAM INSPIRATION for the womenís four-person team. Thatís how my sister, Kelli, was added to the list of Vail locals who have been part of RAAM.
Vail women have included: Wendy Lyall; Michelle Keene; Linda Guerrette; Heather Sappenfield; Tristan; Kim Fields; and Kerry White (who won the Ian Sandback Inspirational award in 2004).
Last year, Kerry went out alone. There were a few teams riding for diabetes, but Kerry was the only diabetic to go at it alone. I believe Kerry has been the only local to race RAAM solo.
To help TEAM INSPIRATION raise the funds to race on behalf of the Bobby Moore Cancer fund, please stop by a fundraiser at 6 p.m., May 14, at E-Town in Edwards. And be sure to check out the online auction posted at www.kelliandkerry.com.
Follow the raceís progress starting June 8 at www.raceacrossamerica.org, and for more information about TEAM INSPIRATION go to www.teaminspiration.co.uk.
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