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Race Across America ‘06
FINAL REPORT

On Tuesday Tinker and crew awoke in London, Ohio with 628 miles to go. That time-station was in a gas station adjacent to a bar—so things weren’t exactly quiet after the 2:00 am closing time. Most of this day was spent in the backroads and farm country of Ohio. Early in the day we passed a real postcard scene—an Amish father and very bored looking son, poking along at six miles and hour through the farmlands.

It was also that morning that Tinker and the follow vehicle happened upon the motor home of Austrian, Gerhard Gulewicz. One of Gulewicz’ crew members met Tinker at the roadside, “Gerhard wants to quit,” he crew member explained, and asked Tinker to please stop and have a word with their rider. Tinker graciously complied and after offering words of encouragement, got back on his bike. Gulewicz too remounted his bike. When we saw him at the next time-station he seemed to be feeling better. Gulewicz took just a quick rest at that station and soon rolled out, chowing down on a submarine sandwich as he pedaled.

Consistency was the key word for the days that followed, with Tinker putting in twenty-hour days while keeping a steady pace. As the fatigue from the previous days built, Tinker’s mood would change from day to day; he’d feel good one day, not so hot the next. But even on his “off” day, he was still motoring. For instance, while riding through Gettysburg Battlefield Monument, a group of local riders spotted Tinker and wanting to do a ride-along visit tried to chase down Tinker and the follow car, “But they couldn’t do it!” related Tinker’s crew member/massage therapist Scotty Mulleary, “Tinker was motoring. Amazing! Tinker’s on his 2800th mile and a group of fresh riders can’t catch him.” Yes, Tinker’s speed was impressive. He often logged the fastest times of anyone for a given section. Not that he’d want to hear about it. Many times a crew member would tell him, “You’re doing great, Tinker. Your speed average is way up there,” only to have Tinker dismiss the comment with a “Whatever, thanks for the encouragement, but I’m feeling flat today.”

None of the crew members ever took Tinker’s little barks and growls seriously. We all came into this knowing that even the nicest riders can get edgy as the miles pile on. In fact, we’re all so very proud of Tinker for how gracious he was throughout the ride. No matter how hard the ride, whenever he’d reach a time-station he’d always have a “thank you” and a kind word for the time-station volunteers. Invariably he’d sign an autograph and pose for a photo or two before attending to his own needs. Not many RAAM riders can make that claim, with many being near-zombies and having to be helped on and off their bikes. The only way that Tinker was able to keep his legendary friendly demeanor is that he was getting far more sleep than the other riders. “I know what my body needs,” he said, “And I’m not going to push beyond that like the other riders. For those guys, this isn’t a bicycle race; it’s more about seeing who can sleep the least. I’m not going to put myself through that and put myself or my crew members in danger.”

In the final two days the crew kept a close watch on Kenny Souza via the internet as Souza first took fourth place away from Bryce Walsh. That Souza was a concern to Tinker was evident at each stop as he’d invariably ask for Souza’s position. In the closing days this helped to motivate Tinker. His concern for Souza and his desire to be done with RAAM put a fire in him that carried him to log over 400 miles in one day, a day that included some of the toughest climbs of the entire race, “I just want this to be over,” he explained. Early Friday morning, Tinker took his last break at the Georgetown, Pennsylvania time-station. After just a two and half hour break, Tinker and crew awoke. As Tinker showered some of the crew readied his bike and follow vehicle while crew member Jim Trout (11th place finisher at RAAM ’05) took a look at the RAAM website to discover that Souza was only forty or so miles back! Just as crew member Ed shouted this news into the motor home shower, two of Souza’s film crew arrived on a motorcycle. Knowing that Souza would soon know Tinker’s whereabouts, Tinker quickly got dressed, mounted his Cannondale Six13 and rode off into the early morning dark.

Those of us in the motorhome, (me, Rose Juarez, crew-member Dean) were underway shortly after, and soon got a cell phone call; in the haste to get Tinker underway he had forgotten to gulp down his usual morning Cyto protein shake, and there were none in the follow car. So we turned up the throttle and soon saw the flashing lights of the follow car on the darkened road. We passed Tinker and the follow car and after a mile or two pulled over and waited just a few minutes for their lights to appear. Dean took the shakes and waited at the crest of a small hill for Tinker to snatch as he passed. “You guys are awesome,” he shouted as he took his liquid breakfast and pedaled on.

The darkness gave way to dawn and our entourage made the last two time stations. By then the internet reports revealed that Souza had backed off on his charge, third place was virtually wrapped up for Tinker. At the final time station at a McDonald’s in New Jersey, Ed called RAAM officials as per our RAAM handbook instructions; with this call a police escort was summoned to lead Tinker and the follow car onto the boardwalk in Atlantic City. Finally, at 10:26 am, having ridden 3043 miles in ten days, twenty-two hours and twenty-one minutes, Tinker rode to the finish line stage, his mother Rose and fiancée Terri held a banner across the line and lowered it to the ground for him to leave his final RAAM tire track across it. He hugged Terri, and then Rose before climbing the stage to address the fans gathered on the boardwalk.

“This has been the hardest I’ve ever done or ever will do in my life,” he declared. He recalled the many challenges of his nearly eleven day ordeal, the ups and downs, the good moments, the ugly moments, the times in the Kansas winds when he was sure that walking would be faster than pedaling. He expressed his respect at his fellow competitors, “Those guys who can get by on one or two hours of sleep, they’re a different breed than me,” he said, “They get all the respect I can give from me,” he added. “I know that for me, after 33 years of racing, its ride, rest, recover. To leave out that rest, to leave out that sleep—I don’t know how they do it.” He thanked the many fans along the way, he thanked the time station workers, “You ride all night, arrive in the middle of nowhere, and there’s someone there waiting, and they’re happy to see you!” he said, “It’s those volunteers that make this all possible,” He also thanked his sponsors, and maybe missed one or two, even though they were all right there printed on his jersey. But that’s okay, someone who’s just finished one of the most extreme physical tests ever imagined deserves a little leeway. Lastly, he thanked his crew, “Some of these people have been working on this for five months or more,” he said. “And some, I just met. But they were all awesome. They got the job done, working together with one goal; to get me here, where I’m standing in one piece. Without them I never could have done this. Those times when I was bonking physically and mentally, when I found myself thinking, ‘This is too much,’ that I wanted to get off my bike and be done, I’d think of them and all their hard work and then I’d pedal some more.” And with that RAAM officials presented the crew with a bottle of champagne. But instead of spraying it all about in NASCAR fashion, it was passed along for each member to take a sip. For each and every member had earned a taste of the sweetness that is the finish of the Race Across America.

PHOTOS:





1. STYLISH EXIT: After the finish, Tinker’s RAAM crew had very little time to catch their flights home. Shuttles tend to make several time-consuming stops, so, five people who hadn’t showered in recent memory, all piled into a stretch limo for a mad dash to the airport.

2. WAITING FOR KENNY: In the final days when time reports showed that Kenny Souza was on the move, Tinker’s crew had special plans to keep Souza at bay.

3. FOR THE RECORD: Here’s a statistic that Tinker will never forget.
 

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That is a phenomenal accomplishment. I met Tinker at the Durango stop and he was gracious enough to speak for a few minutes when I knew he really wanted some rest. A week later he was still racing across the country. I thought of all the stuff I'd done in the past week since he came through Durango and what it would have been like to be riding solid for that duration...

Mad props. Now go get some rest, cause the bigger challenge is just around the corner:)
 

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Very Nice

I know he does, but Tinker needs to realize how many dreams he creates for his fellow cyclists taking up these HUGE challanges...WAY TO GO TINKER!! :thumbsup:
 

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unbelievable

Tinker is unbelievable!!

This guy rides a bike acroos the north american continent faster than most people in a motor home would dare to drive it. When I saw that he finished in less than 11 days I thought about my drives to Michigan from Colorado, which takes two days in a car (600 miles a day), Tinker was almost doing that.

Amazing, he and his competitors have truly extended the limits of the human body.
 
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