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There are but a handful of humans on the planet that can ride a bicycle across the U.S. in 9 days.  But indeed, after 9 intense days and 3000 miles of racing, Mark is standing proud with his crew at the Annapolis finish line.  

When speaking with Mark just before he took the start in Oceanside, he remarked: “Looks like we’re all set - I just need to hold up my end of the bargain…”   With the very competitive field this year, Team Pattinson realized that  two things were necessary for Mark to win: Everything had to go right for Mark, and something had to go wrong for all of the others.  And ultimately, nearly everything did indeed go right for Mark, and many of the competitors did have things go wrong for them at one time or another.  For the better part of the race, the final outcome teetered on a knife’s edge, with all the podium spots up for grabs.  

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In the end, Mark may have come up short to improve upon his 2011 result.  The top podium sport went to Strasser, who executed a flawless RAAM and broke two long-standing records in the process: the fastest average speed and the fastest time.  And Wyss and Schoch are also to be congratulated for prevailing in their return to the other podium spots.  But with a team effort that was nothing short of phenomenal and awe inspiring, Mark more than held his end of the bargain up by keeping us riveted these past 9 days. 

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It was an honor and privilege for the media team to document Mark’s achievement.  We hope you enjoyed the journey as much as we did.

Your Pennsylvanian bloggers:

-Andrew Mead

-George Metzler

-Tom Rosenbauer

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Mark is crossing the suburban areas of the Baltimore-Washington corridor in this segment, including a 2 mile stretch on a freeway, to bring them 41 miles closer to the finish line.  Upon checking into TS53, the timed finish line is a mere 9.4 miles away.

Because it would have been after his youngest daughters’ bed times.  They met Mark at at the Mount Airy Time Station to see him sign in and congratulate Dad.

Mark is currently projected to finish shortly after 11 PM EDT.

70 miles to go. The miles tick away a bit slower as the race is settled. No glamour….not that there is very much in RAAM. Just the methodical completion of the task

Media crew member George Metzler couldn’t stand sitting on the sidelines this year (he was on the road crew for Mark’s 2011 RAAM) and decided to go out and cheer Mark on.  He caught up with the Pattinson Express in Gettysburg and followed along for a while to grab a few photos.

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Mark reached the Hanover time station at 16:09.  From Hanover, the route heads south back into Maryland and the next time station in Mt. Airy.  There are 91 miles between Mark and the finish line. 

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Mark’s entering the “Git-eR-Done” phase of the race.  The major climbing is finished and the terrain is headed generally back toward sea level.  A new challenge will soon present itself to Mark.  He’s headed into the Baltimore/Annapolis/Washington population center just in time for the evening rush.  After spending hours on idyllic backroads, the noise, heat, and smells of congested traffic will make the final miles less than enjoyable and challenge an extremely tired racer who wants nothing more than to ride his bike to the finish line in relative peace.   Being the thinker that he is, you can be sure that he’s really starting to look forward to being reunited with his family who wait for him at the finish.  Just a few more miles, Mark.  Just a few more miles. 

Mark reached Rouzerville at 12:59 this afternoon and headed out for the last two significant climbs of RAAM in the leg to Hanover.  Once he puts those behind him, it’s pretty much downhill for the remaining 120 miles to Annapolis. 

He can expect to get a glimpse of the leading 8-person team of Allied Forces - Team 4Mil/Strategic Lions  as they are expected to catch and pass Mark on the way to Hanover.   

Mark checked into time station 49 in Hancock, Maryland at 9:14 this morning.  A few short miles later he crossed into Pennsylvania to bring his states visited count to 12. 

On behalf of the Pennsylvania-based media crew, WELCOME Mark and the rest of Team Pattinson.  We’re certainly glad to see you here.

They may not be tall, but the Appalachians are tough.  Cyclists face the steepest pitches and highest elevation gain rates of the entire RAAM route in these ancient mountains.  Here are a few shots from Thursday morning’s leg in western Maryland.  Really, who knew that Maryland, not West Virginia, would dish out such mountainous challenges to the racers?

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Mark checked in with time station 48 in Cumberland, Maryland at 6:00 and charged straight into RAAM’s toughest segment in terms of climbing per mile along the way to Hancock, Maryland.   There are four major climbs in the run to Hancock, each averaging 7-8% with a few steep kickers sprinkled about to break a racer’s climbing rhythm.  The last climb up Sidling Hill contains the follow ominous note in the RAAM Route Manual:  The last climb could be a walker.  

Mark paused for a final overnight sleep break on the way to Keyser and was leap frogged by Baloh.  Mark reached the Keyser West Virginia time station at 3:41, trailing Baloh by an hour.  While Baloh slept at the time station, Mark passed him again and as of 5:00 is over half way to the next time station in Cumberland, Maryland and is 16 miles ahead of the slumbering Slovenian. 

We’re hoping Mark is well rested as the segment from Cumberland to Hancock, Maryland dishes up the toughest climbing (in feet of gain per mile) of the entire RAAM route.

Go Mark!    

Mark cleared Time Station 46 in Grafton at 19:30 to claim 4th place on the RAAM leaderboard.  He average over 14 mph for the leg, indicating the intensity of Mark’s effort to stay ahead of the still pursuing Baloh.  Marko checked in 27 minutes later, so it appears that Mark is slowly inching away.  With the approaching night, the lead doesn’t even afford a decent catnap so Mark will have to wrestle with the balance between sleep and performance.   

The next leg to Keyser features some large climbs and dishes up some 8,000 feet of elevation gain in its 70 miles.  This is one tough leg.  Mark is tougher.   316 miles to go.

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At least that’s what the sign that greets riders as they cross the Ohio River says.  There is no mention (warning?) of the endless array of climbs that awaits racers.   

Mark crossed the bridge into Parkersburg, West Virginia shortly after noon today, still chasing Baloh who had remained elusively about 15 minutes up the road for nearly 100 miles.  A short time later, Mark finally reeled in the Slovenian to overtake 4th place on the road.  Baloh didn’t take the pass lying down, but chased Mark to keep him in sight for nearly 15 miles.  Then Mark flatted, giving Baloh a chance to pass Mark and became the rabbit once more.  Mark started the chase again.  By the time they reached the Time Station at 14:54, Mark was back to within 4 minutes of Baloh.   While the crew handled the check in, Mark kept up his pursuit on the leg to Grafton, a 65-mile leg filled with leg-burning 200 foot “rollers” (most of us mortal riders call those significant hills).  He soon caught and passed Baloh, this time with a bit more momentum.  As of this posting (now 15:30), Mark is leading Baloh by nearly 5 miles on the road.  Schoch is another 41 miles up the road.  I’m sure Mark has something special to show us as he chases him down.

Meanwhile, 375 miles up the road RAAM is welcoming Christoph Strasser to the City Dock in Annapolis.  Strasser, it appears, has broken both Pete Penseyres’ 1986 RAAM speed record and Rob Kish’s 1992 time record.  That Strasser has finished in less than eight days is the frosting on that celebratory cake.  Congratulations.

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Mark started his day by passing Baloh near Chillicothe.  But the advantage was short-lived as Baloh reclaimed fourth position while Mark was briefly off the bike.  What ensued was a 100-mile chase to catch Baloh to reclaim the spot.  Mark’s dogged determination finally paid off as he overtook and passed the Slovenian near Parkersburg, WV. 

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The race is on as the two power their way up the hills toward Ellenboro.  It’s a real race to watch!

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The gears are turning, and not just on the bike. 

Mark got rolling early this morning and is turning the bike gears down the road as we approach the completion of eight days of racing.  He reached the Athens time station at 10:30 this morning having chased Marko Baloh for the entire the leg.  He trailed Baloh by 20 minutes at the TS and is now riding in 5th place on the road. Mark continued his pursuit and turning those gears toward the next time station in Ellenboro, West Virginia.

The status of Gerhard Gulewicz is presently unknown.  His last check in was at TS 42 last night and it appears he has become separated from his GPS transmitter.  We hope everything is OK with the Austrian. 

Mark is a numbers guy and can crunch numbers in his head.  After more than a week on the road with an amount of sleep most people would call a good night’s sleep, the fact that he can figure out 2 plus 2 is pretty amazing.  But then Mark is an amazing guy.  In addition to his usual requests for food and drink this morning, Mark has been asking for data on the competition.  Lots of data.  His mental gears are turning at high speed as he examines the race that is about to unfold as the roads turn sharply upward.  He knows what’s left in his tank, has a good idea of his competition’s location, and is looking to ration his energy in the most effective way to advance on the leaderboard.     

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As Day 8 dawns, race leader Strasser has the toughest climbs of the Appalachians behind him and appears to be headed for a sub-8 day finish.  The race behind him is tightening up.

Mark checked into TS 43 in Chillicothe OH at 6:07 this morning.  While the leaderboard could lead one to believe that he trails some of the podium contenders by a few hours, rider tracking shows that most stopped for their “overnight” rest around there.  As a result, Mark is trailing Schoch, currently in 3rd place after pausing to consider abandoning the race yesterday, by about 45 miles with Gulewicz believed to be sandwiched in between. 

In Chillicothe, Mark briefly caught Baloh as he was coming off a sleep break.  Baloh then re-passed Mark while Mark was taking a “nature break” just outside the town.  The race is re-starting again with 500 miles to go.

Next up is TS # 44 in Athens, OH.