While most everyone was celebrating St. Patrick’s Day drinking green beer and chasing leprechauns, we were riding through fields of blue bonnets and chasing white tailed deer through the Texas Hill Country. The Texas Cycling Challenge was the kick-off event for this year’s RAAM Challenge Series. Generally, each of the nine events is comprised of 3 rides (30, 60 and 120 miles) and 2 races (200 and 400 miles). The 400-mile event is a RAAM Qualifier.
The two-woman team of Jill Gass and Franziska Williams (California) finished first overall in the 400-mile event with a time of 20h:47m (18.10 mph). The two-person mixed team of Dan Driscoll and Pam Wright (Texas) finished in23h: 58m (15.69 mph). The top solo finisher was Dave Preston (Washington) in 26h:10m (14.37 mph). The course was 376.1 miles with 20,935’ of climbing.
The 200-mile race featured an epic battle between Arkansas residents Kurt Searvogel and Stephen Stafford. Searvogel finished in 9h:55m (20.16 mph) with Stafford close behind in9h:58m (20.06 mph). Larry Ide (Illinois), riding a recumbent, finished in 11h:39m (17.16 mph), third place overall. Wayne Dunlap (Texas) finished fourth overall in12h:03m (16.59 mph). The course was 199.9 miles with 11,295’ of climbing.
The goal of the Series promoter, Soul Events, is to attract new participants to the sport of endurance racing by creating gateways to the sport and pathways to the sport’s premier event, Race Across America – the world’s toughest bicycle race.
Overall, 148 riders participated – 23 racers and 125 riders. The field was comprised of experience ultra-endurance racers – including RAAM vets, randonneurs (including 2 RBAs), triathletes and recreational riders. Roughly 50% of the field was new to endurance racing.
Two prominent Marble Falls residents participated, Ralph Hendricks (City Manager) and Keith Conrad (Division Manager – Allied Waste Services). Hendricks, who had just returned from a mountain biking mission in Southeast Asia, did the 200-mile event – his first ultra-endurance race. Conrad had planned on racing the 200-mile event but switched to the 120-mile Gran Fondo. Friends of Conrad prevailed upon event organizers to present him with the “Pink Panties Award.” Thus, it seems, a tradition has been established. Hey, this is Texas!
Racers and crew from across the country –Arkansas, California, Illinois and Washington– came for the ultimate Texas experience – round-up in the Spring.
South by Southwest (SXSW), one of the largest music festivals in the world, was going on in nearbyAustin– the live music capital of the world. Rainfall and warm temps brought out the blue bonnets. The roadsides were covered with a carpet of lavender blue and their fragrance filled the air. The weather was perfect.
Soul Events is determined to set the gold standard for ultra-endurance cycling events. Each event is designed to capture the essence of the region. Texas Cycling Challenge participants were treated to live music from local singer-songwriter, John Arthur Martinez and his band. Food was provided by Peete Mesquite, perennial winner of the best BBQ in Burnet County. Craft-brewed beer was poured by local micro-brewer Doublehorn Brewery and wine provided by Hill Country vineyards.
Soul Events wishes to thank Ralph Hendricks (Marble Falls City Manager), Bill Rives (Chamber of Commerce President) and Robert Sooter (Chief Patrol Officer) for their support, as well as the residents of Marble Falls, our sponsors Specialized Bicycles and Primal Wear, our volunteers and all of the riders and crew for making the inaugural event a success.
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