Here's what a smooth, legal exchange looks like.
It looks simple, which is good. But there's a lot that goes into a seamless racer exchange: In a nighttime exchange, the sleeping racer is awakened about 10-15 minutes before the scheduled exchange will take place. He is given food and/or liquid and suits up ... jersey and jacket, shorts, socks, shoes, gloves, scullcap, helmet, headset. The RV driver, meanwhile, is looking for a suitable place to pull over and make the exchange (again, abiding by numerous RAAM rules, of course.) The navigator makes contact with the Follow, which is with the racing rider, to coordinate the time and place of the exchange. Follow crew relays this information to the racer via radio headset.
Another crew member is preparing water, Gatorade and Perpetuem for the beginning racer's bike, while yet another crew member is taking his bike off the rack on the back of the RV. The bike is prepared with the required headlights and taillights and checked for potential mechanical issues. The idea is that, by the time the retiring racer rides up, the beginning racer is ready to roll once they cross wheels to make it a legal exchange.
The retiring racer gives up his bike, which is stripped of empty fluid bottles, visually inspected for potential mechanical issues and racked on the vehicle. Once inside, he eats and/or drinks, changes out of his wet clothing and into dry, loose cotton clothes and gets down to resting. While he's doing that, the crew starts all over - preparing his fluid bottles, charging light and headset batteries, figuring out where the next exchange will take place, depending on how long this riding segment will last. Daytime exchanges are similar, except that the racer is resting in the Follow and that crew takes care of his needs. Once wheels are crossed, the beginning racer can ride ahead until the Follow catches up. It's a crowded house in the Follow, because the resting racer is laying on the floor, surrounded by food, drink, supplies and crew.
Charlie rests in the FollowSometimes a racer wants replacement fluids before his segment is finished. In that case, so that he doesn't have to get off his bike, crew members implement a handoff system in which the racer tosses off his empty bottles and accepts handoffs from crew members jogging alongside him. This sounds simple, but it's tricky. The crew member has to jog forward with his back to the racer and with his eyes in front of him, not on the racer, so that he doesn't fall. He holds the bottle of fluids by the top, and the racer rides alongside to grab it and stash it in the bike's bottle cage; this sytstem repeats with another crew member who is 50 or so yards ahead with another bottle waiting to be handed off.
Here, Jonathan watches for Richard's approach and gets ready to time his jogging for the handoff.
Of course, when the whole exchange is over the crew goes back to pick up the bottles the racer has tossed off.
It's very cool stuff if it's done right - a successful exchange leaves the racer relaxed on his bike and the crew satisfied with another smooth exchange. A RAAM racer could lose time on a botched exchange, and RAAM officials are potentially always watching to make sure things are done correctly.
We're happy to report that Team Reaching Heights is running a perfectly clean race with no time penalties assessed against us. This is one of our team goals, and we're happy to be on target.