A Day in the Life of a Crew Chief

I have known James for about 8 years through work at Wythenshawe Hospital, he was aware I liked cycling and when I told him I was retiring in July 2018 he responded by asking me to do this RAAM event with him. At first I thought, are you joking, I cannot cycle across America, he reassured me it was as part of the support crew so I was relieved and also honoured to be asked.

So…. I retired from the NHS and then spent the next four months in France and Spain, travelling and cycling with my own support crew, Pat (my wife and fellow retiree). Didn’t think much about the event until we were on a beach in Torremolinos when I was contacted by James to ask if we would be prepared to drive an RV back from Annapolis (Near Washington DC) back to San Diego. Pat agreed, eventually, as long as we didn’t sleep in the RV on the way back and had chance to see some of America.

When we got back to England James contacted me to see if I knew anyone else who might want to join the crew. I thought … I know someone who would be ideal, my good lady – Pat. I managed to persuade her (I am not sure she would agree that I persuaded her – lol) to join the crew.

It is currently the 8 April 2018 and I am wondering what the heck I have let myself in for. James and Tom asked me to be their Crew Chief for their Race Across America – sure why not guys I said – and then it hit me after the London RAAM seminar. This is going to be something of a ‘challenge’ as they say in the NHS! Temperatures as high as 125 degrees Fahrenheit, roads with desert to each side or grass that can catch fire if you park over it, potential for Tornado’s and severe thunderstorms or torrential rain along the way sounds wonderful doesn’t it.

I have read and re-read the rules, I have read the gear book too, 55 pages approx.. in each. However I could not get my head around the magnitude of the event from a cyclist point of view. I hatched a plan to map out the whole route on lining wallpaper which I had a spare roll of in the garage. This took me the best part of 6 hours one Sunday afternoon and I have now plotted out the whole route over the 3100 miles of the race, I can now see where the mountains are and where the flatlands will be. I did have to buy another roll to complete the route, it is stretched out over about 30 feet of lining paper showing all the climbs, the Walmart’s the gas stations and all the Time Stations along the way.

James and Tom are aiming to complete the ride in 8 days, we set off on 15 June and will aim to complete on Sunday 23 June, eight days and nights of cycling at an average speed of 16-18 mph. We will have two vans, equipped with bike accessories, food and fluids, washing equipment etc… but when do we rest?

This is really difficult to plan and will need the whole team to consider what would be the best approach. The race will not succeed unless we have a great team who are all working towards James and Tom’s objective. The race crew consist of Darren and Maggie Weatherall, Eddie Allen, Fiona Comley and Gan and ourselves

The crew and racers are meeting this week on 13 April to plan our strategy. We will be talking through the roles and responsibilities of the crew members. Driving, navigating, bike maintenance, nutrition, shopping, washing and most importantly keeping James and Tom entertained and motivated during those difficult times when they would just like to give up and go for a well-earned beer! After our strategy meeting we will practice handing bidons to James and Tom, both at the roadside and from the window of the car. This is not as easy as it sounds. Then we are off into the Peak district practising leapfrog handover of riders and a small amount of direct following which we will have to do each night for 12 hours during the race – 8 long long nights driving at 16-18 mph keeping the riders at a distance of 30 feet in front of us. Easier said than done.

So……. Pat and I continue to discuss tactics, what resources we are likely to need – how many bananas can they eat in 8 days? Where will we get James’ Spaghetti Bolognese (we will get you one somewhere James)? How much water can we actually carry in the van when they will be drinking 1-2 litres per hour. The whole thing is scary but we are determined to get this done and to make sure that James and Tom’s goal is achieved.

What a party we will have when we finish, roll on Annapolis!

Pete, Crew Chief

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *