For the week of August 19 thru August 25, 1998  

Heat makes RAAM one tough ride

Born 8th in top-notch field

The relentless heat is the one thing Ketchum cyclist Steve Born will remember most about the 2,900-mile 17th running of the Ensure Race Across America (ERAAM). The cross-country bike race from Irvine, Ca. to Savannah, Ga. ran from July 23 through July 31.

Born, 40 in October, will also remember averaging 300 miles per day on his bicycle and finishing the arduous coast-to-coast test in a personal-record nine days, 17 hours and 48 minutes. Among 23 male starters representing the strongest field in the race’s history, Born finished eighth overall.

"My hands and feet are still numb," Born said Monday, 18 days after finishing the race. "I suspect it will take at least one-and-a-half months to recover."

Wisconsin native Born was making his fifth attempt at RAAM, which Outside Magazine determined through a poll in 1993 to be the world’s toughest endurance event. Indeed, Born didn’t make it out of California in DNFing the 1993 and 1995 RAAMs, after he finished ninth in 1988 and 11th in 1991.

This year’s course was reputed to be the "fastest and flattest course ever," a potential record breaker. But pavement temperatures that reached 125 degrees literally melted the road and made for extra, unwanted pedaling resistance. The monotony also took its toll on the mental powers of bikers.

Born said, "Although the new course bypassed the climbs of the Rockies, it instead offered miles of hot, windy rolling hills. The difficulty was the lack of scenery and landmarks to break up the monotony. You could go 100 miles and not see as much as a tree. And the wind was a constant headwind for the first third of the race."

Flash flooding, thunderstorms and a mini-tornado came into the picture as well. "All in all, it was a cornucopia of bad weather," said Born, manager of The Natural Niche in Ketchum who took four Kestrel bikes and eight sets of wheels with his crew of eight.

The strength of the field put additional pressure on the contestants. Born said, "There were five former winners among the 23 starters. Each rider in the strong rookie field had solid credentials. I felt as though I could have the race of my life and still potentially finish far down the field."

All things considered, Born said his finish was totally satisfying. He said, "This year’s RAAM was more of a death march than a bike race. It wasn’t a pleasant crossing. More than ever, it was a mental challenge that forced me to go beyond every preconceived limitation I had. To be able to have a personal-best time under these conditions is something I’m very pleased with."

Of his three RAAM finishes, this was Born’s most difficult. Others had a tough time, too. Perennial women’s winner Seana Hogan had her worst race, finishing in over 11 days. The last solo rider took nearly 12-and-a-half days to finish.

Born said, "Even though I was taking in 9,000 to 11,000 calories a day, I still lost 10 to 12 pounds by the finish, and that’s something that hadn’t happened to me before.

"This year I rode faster but I also cut back on my sleep. I slept a total of 22 hours in the nearly 10 days of the crossing. My first sleep break came after 611 miles and 39 hours. I slept about five hours total in the last 800 miles of the race."

Winner was Australia’s Gerry Tatrai in an incredible eight days, 12 hours and 22 minutes--truly "one of the greatest rides in RAAM history," according to Born.

Born thanked crew members Muffy Ritz and Roger Mankus; Mary Hall of Smith Sport Optics; Steve Morrisey and Kristen Farrell of Botanica/Second Wind; his massage therapist Jen Douglas; and his acupuncturist Callie Huttar.






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