Unless he falls off his bicycle -- a possibility since he has been on it for almost nine days with only one or two hours of sleep a day -- Jonathan (Jock) Boyer will ride into Atlantic City, N.J., today to win the Race Across AMerica and most of its $20,000 in prizes.
At 6 p.m. yesterday, a haggard Boyer pedaled into Luray, Va., more than 100 miles ahead of his closest competitor, Michael Secrest, with exactly 300 miles left in the race. The two have exchanged the lead almost daily for most of the 3,000 miles since the transcontinental bike race began July 21 in Huntington Beach, Calif.
Secrest, of Flint, Mich., fell asleep and behind yesterday -- collapsing in a motor home, one of three support vehicles following each of the 18 riders remaining in the race. He then fell farther behind when visibility dropped to 20 feet in heavy fog on the mountainous Blue Ridge Parkway in southern Virginia.
In third place and about 200 miles behind Boyer, as he has been for the past three days, was Michael Shermer, of Hollywood, Calif. Shermer was followed -- about 90 miles back -- by the first of the three remaining female riders in the race.
What the fourth year of "the world's longest bicycle race" seems to be demonstrating is that a professional cyclist such as Boyer can compete successfully in an ultra-marathon event.
Boyer, 29, of Pebble Beach, Calif. -- the first professional to enter the 4-year-old RAAM -- is a three-time veteran of the Tour de France, the world's oldest and most prestigious "stage" race. This year's 2,500-mile Tour, which ended the day RAAM began, included daily races or stages, many in the Alps and Pyrenees, of up to 160 miles. But those cyclists had two weeks in which to do it, got plenty of sleep and even had a day off.
"This isn't like the Tour," Boyer said from his saddle last night, outside Luray. "That was really intense. This is just wear and tear on every single part of you."
The two front-riding women in the race, Shelby Hayden-Clifton of Greensboro, N.C., and Susan Notorangelo-Haldeman of St. Louis, now in fourth and fifth place -- one to two hours apart -- are riding faster than last year's record-setting men's pace. Hayden-Clifton is about 300 miles behind Boyer but only 100 miles behind third-place Shermer.
The third woman, Elaine Mariolle, of Berkeley, Calif., has moved into seventh place, ahead of the remaining 11 men in the race, who are spread out hundreds of miles behind in North Carolina and Tennessee.