Race Across America takes cyclists through Bloomington again this year

On Thursday afternoon Bloomington was rain-free for the first time in a few days. A 10-mph wind blew out of the west. For competitors in this year’s Race Across America, that meant dry pavement and a nice tailwind as they pedaled past the time station on Third Street, a couple hundred yards in front of the SR 446 intersection.

Kabir_Rachure Cropped IMG_6193
Kabir Rachure, a 29-year-old lawyer from India. Thursday, June 20, 2019 Race Across America passing through Bloomington, Indiana (Dave Askins/Beacon)

As they continued on SR 46 towards Nashville, then through Columbus, and eventually to the Atlantic Ocean at Annapolis, Maryland, the wind wouldn’t level out the climb up to Brown County State Park’s west entrance. Kim Rich was crewing for Greg Robinson and pulled over at the Bloomington time station to cheer on the 49-year-old as he cycled past. Rich put the Beacon’s description of the state park hill this way: “So, it’s not Colorado.”

On Thursday, under the canopy tent that sheltered the time station, race officials Terry and Kay Bork, from Cleveland, Ohio, had stopped for a while to visit with locals like Dave Tanner, who himself rode the RAAM three times and crewed for another six riders.

“Finishing is winning” is a common theme in conversation about RAAM. A piece by Bob Hammel of the Herald-Times, written three decades ago and extracted from the Newsbank archive available through the Monroe County Library, echoes that theme.

Hammel quotes Tanner saying about the 1989 ride: “My twin brother … pulled me through. He just wouldn’t let me quit. Plus, all kinds of crazy things were going through my mind about how I would have to sell my house in Bloomington and move somewhere else if I didn’t make it. Really. I thought of all those people back in Bloomington who had supported me, and I couldn’t quit.”

Jim Schroeder told the Beacon he’s been managing the Bloomington time station for the last 12 years. The route for RAAM will go through Bloomington next year, too, he said. Bloomington made it onto the route as a more-or-less permanent fixture when Fred Boethling became owner of the race, Schroeder said. Boethling purchased the race in 2007, according to a Cycling News report.  Schroeder said Boethling wanted to run the route through college towns and smaller places. The race was first held in 1982.

Stephen Hale had just stopped by to visit—he had become aware of the routing of RAAM through Bloomington a few years ago, when he’d noticed a cyclist pedaling along out by the bypass with a support frame for his head cobbled together out of PVC pipe. It was a rider who was plagued by a condition called Shermer Neck (after Michael Shermer), which endurance cyclists sometimes experience. It’s characterized by extreme weakness of the neck muscles.

By Thursday afternoon, one rider, Christoph Strasser, had already finished the 3,070 miles of the course—it took him 8 days 8 hours and 40 minutes. Strasser passed through Bloomington on Monday afternoon around 3 p.m. Bork figured the racers who were still filtering through Bloomington on Thursday still had a shot at finishing inside of the official 12-day cutoff.

Here’s some more photos of the riders.