Around midnight on Wednesday, a few minutes into Thursday, an SUV headed south on SR 45/46 waited at the light to turn left onto 3rd Street.
The door panel had an official placard—it was a race official’s vehicle for the Race Across America (RAAM).
RAAM is a 3036.9-mile bicycle race starting in Oceanside, California ending in Annapolis, Maryland. Since the race was founded 38 years ago, the route for the RAAM has not always been the same. But it has passed through Bloomington for several years.
Through the open window of the SUV the driver shouted to the B Square: “Cutters! The Italians are coming! The Italians are coming! Rebate? Rebate?!”
He caught his own mistake: “Wait, no, that’s not it … Refund? Refund?!”
The recitation of familiar lines from the movie “Breaking Away” was his response to the B Square’s question: “You know you’re in Bloomington, Indiana, right—the greatest bicycling town in America?” The highlight of the film is the victory of a team called the Cutters in the Indiana University Student Foundation’s annual Little 500 bicycle race.
The light turned green before The B Square could catch the driver’s name.
Maybe two minutes earlier, RAAM competitor 52-year old Leah Goldstein had pedalled through the intersection after waiting for the light to change. Cyclists in the RAAM have to obey all the traffic laws.
At that point Goldstein had about 2,300 miles behind her. Her question to The B Square: “How far is it to Ohio?” She seemed to be kidding. In any event, The B Square was unprepared with precise information.
Goldstein won the women’s race in 2012, and was on pace to win the overall competition this year. She led for a good while through Missouri, after then-leader Henrik Dam Hansen dropped out with saddle sores.
But she was overtaken just west of St. Louis by 52-year-old Mark Pattison, who rolled through Bloomington about 3 hours and 20 minutes ahead of Goldstein. By the time Goldstein arrived in Bloomington, Pattison had made his way along SR 46 through Nashville and was passing through Columbus.
That made Pattison and Goldstein the leaders of the men’s and women’s solo competition, respectively, when they hit Bloomington.
The recitation of lines from the movie “Breaking Away” by the race official at the intersection was not the only connection on Wednesday night between the RAAM and the Little 500 bicycle race.
Helping to staff Bloomington’s time stop for the RAAM, on 3rd Street in front of the old Kmart parking lot, was Greg Souder. He’s the Little 500 race mechanic.
That means he works at the track taking care of all the riders’ needs. He also maintains 80 bicycles that the riders can take out on the track and use, as well as nine road bikes that they can take out and use to train with their teams.
It also means that from early February until the race in April, he works a 40-hour week.
The track is open from 2 p.m to 10 p.m. every day for riders to practice. About the early-season training, Souder said, “If you’ve never been there, you’d be amazed at the riders that come up there in freezing cold weather, snow blowing, they’re out there on that track.”
Little 500 race director Hank Duncan also dropped by the Bloomington RAAM time stop on Wednesday, to watch Mark Pattison come through. He had helped Souder set up the canopy for the time stop.
Duncan told the B Square that the fall racing series for the Little 500 will be back to normal this year, after being curtailed last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. That includes street sprints on Kirkwood Avenue. It will be the first year for sprint races since that section of Kirkwood has been repaved.
In the next few days, Bloomington residents might see other RAAM riders as they grind through Bloomington. Riders loop around the city from West 3rd Street up
Kinser Pike to the SR-45/46 bypass, then back down to East 3rd Street, and out SR 46, on their way towards Nashville, and eventually Annapolis.
The RAAM website includes a map with real-time tracking information.
[Updated June 27, 2021 at 5:52 p.m. Pattison did not finish. Goldstein made history as the first woman ever to win the overall race.]
Photos: Race Across America @ Bloomington June 23, 2021