Less glamorous, but very important for future use of the gear, is the breakdown and packing to go home at the end of RAAM.

George Thomas interviewing Mark in Annapolis. 2nd place….from the Pacific Ocean in Oceanside, California to Annapolis Maryland in 9 days 2 hours and 50 minutes.

MARK AT THE FINISH,

Mark’s 2014 RAAM is winding down to a close. The final day brings a collection of RAAM fans to the race course that have been following the cyclists across the US.

One person who is used to being sleepy at this time of year is the popular multiple RAAM finisher Marko Baloh. He won the solo Race Across the West to Durango a few days ago and then finished his vacation to the US by officiating the end of RAAM. I asked him how he feels watching the racers finish. He told me that he has mixed emotions because he loves this race so much and would like to be racing…however he feels bad seeing so of the racers in so much pain. He said, “it is good that you cannot see yourself during RAAM”

Mark is being followed by Charlie, Jonathan and Eric into the final time station in a steady rain. Bleech! The off duty follow crew and the RV crew are waiting with supplies to shine Mark up for the finish line ceremony. We expect Mark at the dock in Annapolis at 7:20 ish. Hopefully the skies will clear. WooHoo second place!

RAAM Media plans to stream Mark’s finish live over the internet.  You can catch it at http://www.ontherivet.tv/.  The parade finish is well-coordinated so expect this live feed to begin around 8pm.  George Thomas hosts and expect to see Christoph Strasser there to congratulate Mark as he joins Christoph on the podium. 

Of course, predictions being just that, Mark is currently estimated to finish around 7:15pm so you may want to fire up the live stream link early.  Just in case.

Mark cleared the last of the serious hills earlier this morning and is presently just outside of TS51 in Hanover, Pennsylvania.  He is riding a bit ahead of earlier predictions and should check in around 1pm.  Arrival at subsequent time stations and the finish will likely be earlier as well.  The current finish prediction is 7:30 this evening.

Mark is comfortably in second place.  Third place racer Nico Valsesia is over 100 miles behind, so it’s simply a matter of ticking off these last few miles before Mark can stand on the podium in Annapolis. 

Here are a few shots from the Gettysburg Battlefield National Historic Park.

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Mark obeying rule RAAM Rule 310, complete with a foot on the ground.

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More supportive fans.

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As of 9am on Thursday, Mark is 22 miles from TS50 in Rouzerville, Pennsylvania.  He is expected to arrive there shortly after 10am. 

His forecast arrival at TS51 in Hanover, Pennsylvania is around 1:30pm, TS52 in Mt. Airy, Maryland shortly after 4pm, and the finish line in Annapolis shortly after 8pm this evening.  These are just estimates.  You can track Mark’s progress in almost real time using the Tractalis application.

As noted in an earlier post, fan encouragement is a key ingredient for Mark.  If you are in the area and find yourself with some time this afternoon, head on out and cheer Mark to the finish or head down to Annapolis to experience the excitement of a RAAM finish.

It takes a lot to reach the finish line in Annapolis.  Planning, which began many months ago.  Long hours on the bike so that the body is physically prepared for 3000 miles.  A good crew and reliable support equipment.  But there is one aspect that can’t be planned or prepared in advance, but is essential to each racer:  FANS.

From those first few feet in Oceanside,

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a visit from the RAAM Media Crew in the Rockies

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and later in the Kansas plains

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to adoring fans in Missouri

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and dedicated fans who magically show up when most needed on a particularly tough climb.

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The crew recognized this particular fan who was standing along Sidling Hill in Pennsylvania from an earlier appearance near St. Louis.  Now THAT’s a dedicated RAAM fan.

No matter how much planning and preparation occurs before the race, the support and encourage of fans is an essential ingredient of a successful RAAM.  Random people along the route cheering the riders helps Mark turn the pedals just a little faster.  People sending daily messages of encouragement through this blog, all of which are read to Mark at some point each day, keep him motivated to press ahead as quickly as possible, even when an twelve hour nap would be so much more enjoyable.

On behalf of Mark and crew, thank you for all of your encouragement.  It is how we get to Annapolis!

Hey Mark, what does Sideling Hill feel like?

With no competitor within 75 miles,Mark pushes on alone on Sideling Hill.

This is what RAAM can look like at 5:00 am. The car is stopped and the rider is taking a nap. Mark has been working extremely hard to break the 9 day barrier during this RAAM and his body is in open revolt against him. Despite strenuous efforts at the beginning of the stage to Hancock on the first two climbs, interspersed with ten minute power naps….Mark just has not been able to awaken fully on the bike,

We just asked Mark to take a 25 minute nap even though this may remove any chance for a sub-nine day finish. Our hope is that he can refocus on cementing his grip on a second place finish in 2014 RAAM and that we can have a safe ride to Annapolis. Of course as I write this post by the side of the road I feel rain drops starting to fall.

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This is what we are using to keep Mark going in the heat!

This is what we are using to keep Mark going in the heat!

Miles and miles of rollers! Lots of heat, lots of road noise on the highway!