24 June 2016

Lael Wilcox Beats All Comers--Yes, Including The Men--In The TransAm

In previous posts, I've mentioned the Bikecentennial.  

A few years after it, something called the Race Across America started.  Lon Haldeman won its first incarnation in 1982; Severin Zolter of Austria won last year.  

It is comparable to the European super-races like the Tour de France, Giro d'Italia and Vuelta a Espana mainly in its overall length.  Those races are in stages and consist of a number of diffent kind of events, such as mountain stages and sprints.  On the other hand, Race Across America is a straight-through race, from some point on the West Coast to some point on the East Coast. (The first edition began on the Santa Monica Pier in California and ended at the Empire State Building in New York.) This means that riders choose when and where they stop and how much or how little they sleep.  Another difference is that roads are not closed to traffic for the race's course.  So, perhaps, it's not surprising that both of the fatalities in the race's history are the result of collisions with motor vehicles.

It seems that someone had the bright idea of combining Bikecentennial with the Race Across America.  Thus was the Trans Am race born.  

Run every year since 2014,  it is a transcontinental race, like RAAM.  Also like RAAM, it is not in stages, so insomniacs can ride through the night, if they like. (I imagine it is better for the mind, as well as the body, than binge-watching Gilligan's Island.)  The most interesting aspect of the race, though, is that it's run on the Bikecentennial route--which is 6800 km (4200 miles) long.  That's at least several hundred kilometers longer than any RAAM, Tour, Giro or Vuelta route!

The other morning, the first American to win the race arrived in Yorktown, Virginia 18 days and 10 minutes after departing Astoria, Oregon.  Lael Wilcox came in ahead of 51 other riders.  As of this writing, four others have finished and eight others have scratched.  That means 38 others are still en route to Yorktown.

(You can follow the riders' progress here.)

For most of the race, Wilcox chased Steffen Streich (who, in spite of his name, hails from Lesbos, Greece) and caught him when, after awaking from a 2.5 hour sleep on the last night, began riding the course backward.  When she encountered him (They'd never before met.), he suggested that they ride together to the finish.  She reminded him that they were in a race.

Now, if you're not from the US, you might not care that Wilcox is the first American to win the race.  You might not even care that Wilcox rode the second-fastest time in the history of the race. Only Mike Hall (of England), who won the inaguaral edition of the race, completed it in less time: 17 days and 16 hours.  

The most interesting aspect of Wilcox's feat is--at least to me--is that she is one of the few women to have ridden it.  Think about that:  The only man who bettered her in the history of the race is Mike Hall!

She is making me think of Beryl Burton, of whom I've written in earlier posts. For two years (1967-69), she held the 12-hour time trial record.  Not the women's record, mind you:  the record.  Moreover, her 277.25-mile (446.2 kilometer) ride was a full five miles (eight kilometers) longer than any other 12-hour time trial!

Hmm...Could Lael Wilcox beat all comers in the RAAM--or some other event?

N.B.:  All photos by Nicholas Carman, from the Gypsy By Trade blog


  1. Unlike RAAM racers fully supported and protected by following vehicles, TranAm racers have no support what ever--a significant difference.
    Your Mid-Life Cycling blog is one of the best.

  2. You have an interesting perspective on Lael's accomplishment. This is the second race I have followed LW dots.

  3. Let's sign her up for Tour Divide and see if she's good on gravel too. All kidding aside, an awesome achievement

  4. 5:41--Thank you for the compliment and pointing out that difference between RAAM and TransAm.

    11:59--Thank you!

    Phillip--It is indeed a great achievement. Somehow I think she'd hold her own on the gravel. Thanks for stopping by again!

  5. The jokes on me. Turns out she did win the female class in Tour Divide last year. You go girl!

  6. The account of the conversation between Wilcox and Streich reminds me of the opening scene of the movie Hidalgo, where two competitors ride it out at the end of a long race: "I didn't come here to place second!" "What did you come out here for then?"

  7. Mike--I like that. Thanks for reminding me of "Hidalgo"!