A long ride for a good friend
Team Vail-Go Fast is training for a long bike ride. Actually, it’s a 2,921-mile ride from San Diego to Atlantic City known as the Race Across America, or RAAM, to be exact. The team, which consists of Jim Mortensen and Adam Palmer of Eagle, and Zach Bingham and Mike Janelle of Vail, will begin their quest June 21 against one of the toughest fields in the 23-year history of the race. RAAM is billed by race organizers as “as an ultra-marathon cycling race.” The top teams will cross the finish line between five and six days after the start, needing to average more than 500 miles per day and over 20 mph to even be in contention to win.”There are a lot of teams coming that have been here before and have run pretty fast,” said Bingham. “There are a few teams that are a little better than us on paper, but I think we have the advantage of being a closer knit group. I also think we will have an advantage racing at night and when the going gets rough.”In a race as unpredictable and grueling as RAAM, just crossing the finish line is impressive. No team knows that as well as this one.Along with all of the physical and logistical challenges they will face over the course of the race, overcoming the personal and psychological obstacles that may prove the toughest. Team Vail will be running this race in memory of their fallen brother and friend Brett Malin, who was killed in an accident in last year’s RAAM.Remembering MalinA year ago, a different Team Vail-Go Fast was in a similar situation, training, preparing and organizing money and supplies for RAAM. They were an easy-going group of friends about to go on a nice long ride together. Things seemed easy. Then things changed.
The 2003 team made it to the start in San Diego, but their bid to reach Atlantic City was cut short a little more than one day into the race when Malin was hit by a truck and killed seconds after completing one of his legs.The blow to the Malin family, Brett’s teammates and the local cycling community was tremendous. Malin was one of those people that plain and simply loved to ride bikes. “We really miss him. He’s the type of guy who would have thrived on this type of energy. I wish I could call him right now,” says Bingham. He and Palmer were members of last year’s team.This year Malin’s brother, Jaime, will serve as team crew chief. Brett’s father, Jim, will be driving one of the team R.V.’s. Both were with the team when the accident occurred. This year’s course is identical to last year’s. When Team Vail reaches that fateful spot on the course in Arizona, it will be, “real emotional” says Palmer.”The entire process is going to be such a deja vu flashback for us,” said Palmer. “I’m looking forward to it in some ways and in some ways I’m a little bit scared of it too. I really want get to the (spot) where the tragedy took place and spend a little time there and pay our respects to Brett. We know he is going to be out there riding with us the whole way.”New additionsTo say that Palmer and Bingham are focused and intense about this race would be a huge understatement. Make no mistake about it, they don’t just want to finish, they want to win. To that end, they have added two equally focused and intense riders to the team in the form of Mortensen and Janelle. Both are professional bikers who were also good friends with Malin.”Jimi was in RAAM in 2001 and he’s just a workhorse out there,” said Bingham. “You can totally just lean on him and rely on him. He’s going to get his job done and part of yours done for you.”
Of the four members on the team, Palmer says that Mike Janelle may be the best suited for this kind of race. Janelle rides eight hours a day all season. “I think he’ll be the fastest of all of us. He knows how and when to drop the hammer,” said Palmer.While Janelle is the only first-time member, he is no stranger to cycling. He is looking forward to the chance to “be on a different stretch of road every time you ride.”Training hard … looking forwardThis will be the third year that Palmer and Bingham have raced and the second for Mortensen. They definitely have an idea of what to expect and how to prepare. That doesn’t mean they are doing everything the same.”We are training more than ever this year,” said Bingham. “I know I’ve gotten more miles in this spring than I ever had.”RAAM is no leisurely relay ride across the country. The race demands not only physical conditioning, but also strategy, perseverance, mental toughness and the ability to overcome any number of unforeseen pitfalls along the way. Riders also have to get some rest.The team has a strategy that allows fellow riders to grab enough time between shifts to recuperate a little. The four-man team breaks into teams of two. One team will go out for five or six hours and ride; the other team will rest in the support vehicle. “People think of RAAM as ultra-endurance, which it is,” said Palmer. “But it has a different component in that what we are doing in the end amounts to 75- ten mile sprints each. You have to have endurance but you also have to have speed.”
Living on lasagnaTeam Vail is fairly well set for their attempt to win the Race Across America, but they are still looking for some last minute assistance. At the top of their wish list right now are items like aerodynamic wheels and high-tech road riding equipment, monetary contributions and lasagna. These guys have to eat a ton of food to keep going over the course of RAAM; lasagna is the “best food for RAAM,” according to Bingham.The team will be holding a fundraiser before they leave to benefit their trip and the Vail Cycling Foundation. The VCF, which supports cycling in the Eagle Valley, was created by Palmer last year after Malin died.”We are trying to promote the sport of cycling,” said Palmer. “Things like safe cycling and promoting the valley as a destination. We will also be doing a Brett Malin memorial ride this summer.”The team thanks of the people that have helped them to compete in this race. Go Fast, Vail and the Kind Cyclist are the main sponsors. The team also had a lot of help from the Cascade Club and Aria Spa, 180-Eyewear, and Dr. Joel of Colorado Chiropractic and Sports Medicine, who has helped keep the team together physically. “We couldn’t do it without the help of the Malin family and all of our friends in Vail.” said Bingham.Donations in the form of money, food and equipment can be dropped off at the Kind Cyclist in Edwards. Or, supporters can bid the team farewell at their going away party, with time and date to be announced.