We have covered Missouri today and we are now heading into Illinois. I have been incredibly frustrated trying to upload video to the blog - it took five hours today and still didn't work! But when I find someplace to do it more quickly, I'll try to get it up because we really have some excellent video.
Our friendly rivalry with the Slovenian E-Hub team has been fun and intense. Getting off course recently cost us a little bit of time, but we knew then that minor mistakes like that are routine and that the deficit would be only a temporary setback. Turns out we were right.
The race is far from over, and we still understand that there's a lot of racing to do. That's why we are sticking to the original plan - both of our racers use heart monitors and/or power meters to measure effort and monitor body systems. They have pre-set thresholds that they don't go beyond. So far, riding their own race has paid huge dividends.
We are still going strong.
The last thing either of our guys wants is to get into a back-and-forth trash talk sort of experience with anybody. Not their style at all. But there is a definite interest on the part of both these teams in competing to the best of their abilities, and having a challenging, if unexpected, opponent stokes those fires.
According to some cycling publications, E-Hub (or the Hubsters as I've taken to calling them) were favored to win the two-man division. Team Reaching Heights was in it to finish and hopefully set a new 50-59 age group record. E-Hub has experience, with one of their racers being a former solo RAAM racer. Team Reaching Heights has two rookie racers who last year were rookie crew members together.
No one saw this kind of battle shaping up. These two teams really are racing one another across America.
The intensity of the rivalry has grown in the past couple of days, and every time we pass the Hubsters, we honk and smile and they wave back. We started yesterday still behind the E-Hubbers, and by the end of his last 3.5-hour pull last night, Richard had passed the Slovenians and was leap-frogging back and forth with their rider. "I rode with him for a few minutes," Richard said, "and he said, 'Man, you're tough.'"
Yeah, ya think?
It's been fun to watch the high-spirited competition develop and grow. It's been even more fun to watch our guys energize themselves with the challenge. They understand that their RAAM goals are independent of beating the E-Hub team and they will not let anything get in the way of that. But it sure is fun to send Richard off on the bike hearing him say, "Man, I'm gonna catch that guy" and then after he does, welcoming him back after his shift with, "You are a freakin' stud on a bike!"
This is fun, really fun, and when Race Across America 2009 is over, no matter who wins this battle we have going on, I will be very proud of all the athletes involved in it. Among the athletes and the crews of these two teams, the spirit of sportsmanship has been genuine. Considering the state of sports these days, this is lovely to see.
Our friends Team E-Hub of Slovenia, "the Hubsters"