Words and photos | Vic Armijo
GREENSBURG, KA (June 15, 2013)— Early this Saturday morning, just east of Pratt, Kansas, race leader Christoph Strasser passed the halfway point of RAAM 2013. And while by late Friday 2012 winner Reto Schoch was within three and half hours of Strasser, having whittled down the five hour gap he faced that morning, that gap has now grown again to a full six hours. As of this writing (7:55 EDT) Schoch has not yet reached Pratt, but by comparing time at the previous time station here near the Greensburg, Kansas time station it’s clear that Schoch is not having a slow race, and is in fact going faster than last year, while Strasser is amazingly going faster still.
Last year in Schoch’s winning pace—a pace that was the third fastest in the event’s history—Schoch reached Greensburg in 3 days, 17 hours and 32 minutes. This morning he reached that same point a half hour faster with a time of 3 days, 16 hours and 2 minutes. But this morning Strasser reached that same point just shy of four hours faster, having gotten there in 3 days, 13 hours and 11 minutes.
Despite the time deficit, in a short rolling-alongside chat last night Schoch appeared in good spirits. The diminutive Swiss rider is known for his cheerful demeanor and constant smile, characteristics that appeared a bit muted earlier in the race. "Perhaps I went to fast in the beginning," he offered last night as explanation for his more serious manner in recent days. Indeed, on day one after being the final starter in the staggered start (riders depart at one-minute intervals) he motored past the entire field to take the front position a mere fifty miles into the race. He held that position well into the first night before being passed by Strasser. "I had fallen back a little bit. But I am feeling great now. Everything is good."
Meanwhile there’s that little matter of that long-standing overall 15.4 mph speed record set way back in 1986 by Pete Penseyres. Schoch came close last year, posting a 15.05. Weather conditions in the coming days are mild by RAAM standards—at least they won’t be any hotter or windier than last year. With both of our leaders setting faster paces than last year perhaps this will finally be the year that the record falls.
Third place is currently a tight race with Dani Wyss (2006 & 2009 winner) currently on his way to Greensburg with Gerhard Gulewicz trailing by about a half hour.
Top American rider Chris Ragsdale is currently riding in tenth place between Trinidad and Kim, Colorado. The rookie rider is having a good race and despite the pressures of some fans who had encouraged him to push his pace to be near the front, he is wisely staying on a pace that he feels will see him complete his first RAAM.
Seana Hogan continues to amaze. The 53 year old is still leading not only the 50+ category, but the Under 50 category as well. Hogan has passed Alamosa, while her closest rival Cassie Schumacher, leader in the Under 50s, has yet to reach the previous time station South Fork, Colorado, some 55 miles back. Kathy Roche-Wallace continues to hold second in the 50+. Roche-Wallace is the current RAAM record holder in the 50+ having posted an overall average of 9.83 mph in 2011, but it appears that Hogan is well on her way to posting an even faster number.