Good news - Mark Pattinson, the Race Across America rider who went over the guard rail yesterday, was back riding on a borrowed bike today. It looks like he will be able to get a replacement frame in time for the RAAM race in mid-June.
We started at 5:30a, an hour earlier than usual, to cover the longer distance in daylight hours, plus we end up in the Central Time Zone once we cross into Kansas.
PACTour support man Brad Reid at his bagel and toast station for our early breakfast.
Right off the bat the first group of 8-10 riders went off at a crazy fast pace, 24-28 mph, with up and down rollers. I was near the front of the group and took a turn leading, unfortunately up a short, steep little hill. I was pretty winded by the top and nearly fell off the back of the group when my turn ended. A mile or two later, about 10 miles out, I blinked and lost contact with the group. I had a few seconds to decide whether to bridge up quickly or let them go. I choose to ease up and they quickly disappeared. I spent a few minutes debating whether this was the best move, but enjoyed riding the next 30 miles on my own to the first rest stop, passing a couple of other riders who had also fallen off the pace. At the first rest stop, John Newton and I hooked up and worked together to the second rest stop where we found Randy Mouri and Jon Batek ready to leave. At the third rest stop we added Max Hogan. The next stop added Lara and Jim on the tandem to our group and 15 miles from the end we picked up Gene Ter Horst, so we were a happy octet heading into Ulysses.
There weren't many towns along US 160, but you could spot the grain elevators from many miles away. We will be seeing a lot of these over the next several days.
One of the highlights of the day was meeting Wyatt, a seven year old BMX bike rider at the lunch stop in Prichett, Co. Wyatt rode up to our trailers and asked to have the bike mechanic look at his bike. Jon did a quick check and adjusted his handlebars. Wyatt then showed us his trick moves, including putting both feet on the top tube. He was a really cute kid and insisted on leading us out of town – a distance of three blocks from the park.
An Echelon day.
This was an excellent day to work together in a group, as the persistent wind was variously a headwind, crosswind, quartering tailwind and a blustery, quartering head wind. We did a lot of echelon pace lining which worked very well with our experienced group. This was also a big energy saver and morale maintainer for everyone. We were on US 160 all day, heading pretty much due east. Traffic was virtually non-existent until we got close to the end at Ulysses, Kansas, so forming echelon lines was quite safe, and we kept an eye out for any traffic coming up behind us. After our group grew, we even had a double echelon line going for a while, which didn’t take up as much of the road.
Lara Sullivan and Jim Slauson joined our group on their tandem for the last 50 miles. Their contribution was much appreciated in the windy crosswinds.
More variations of butt preservation strategies are coming into play, including double shorts, balms,creams, special potions and changing saddles. Most riders are coping ok, but long, hot, flat days are tough on the tushie as you can tell by Max Hogan's expression.
Colorado is now over, we are down to 3,000' and breathing a little better. Kansas is our fifth state in eight days.
Tomorrow is a ‘short’ day of 151 miles to Pratt Kansas. Weather forecast is for 25-35 mph crosswinds from the south and a 30% chance of thunderstorms.