But Inept Reporting Left the World’s Cycling Fans Unaware!
You would naturally expect there would be many adventures for the 66 intrepid cyclists who set off on the third annual Trans Am Bike Race on June 4, 2016 from Astoria on a 4,400 mile race across country to Yorkton, Virginia. The race is totally self- supported with no following vehicles allowed, but has earned a cult following with hundreds of thousands of fans tracking the performance of each rider via GPS trackers they carry.
I live in Astoria and work part-time in the only bike shop in town, Bikes & Beyond, so I met quite a few of the entrants–especially a group of eight Italians. Nine women took on the challenge and two of them proved to be comparable to the best men. Australian Sarah Hammond looked very strong for the first half, then was passed by American Lael Wilcox who achieved a historic victory in 18 days, 10 minutes: first overall, beating all the men. She had held second place for several days, and passed Greek Steffen Streich, who had lead all the way, on the last morning. That was when he woke up in darkness and started riding the wrong way!
She finished four hours ahead of him—an average of almost 240 miles per day--looking amazingly fresh after several nights sleeping on the ground and eating out of convenience stores. Her time improves upon the old female route record by almost three full days, and hers is the second fastest time recorded in the race. For the second year running, third place was taken by Evan Deutsch of Portland in 18 1/2 days.
Lael carried everything she needed in a triangular frame bag with a stars and stripes pattern; her Specialized bike and luggage weighed only 32 lbs! her race strategy is simple” she just doesn’t stop often or for long. She doesn’t stop for sit-down meals, she buys food to take away and eats on the bike.
For gear geeks, here is the spec of Lael’s bike from her boyfriend’s web site: Thanks to Revelate Designs for the best luggage in the world and the stars and stripes framebag; Mike Shupe and The Bicycle Shop in Alaska for continued support and seasonal part-time employment; Specialized for the Ruby Pro Disc UDi2 and the tubeless-aero CLX 64 carbon road wheelset with custom dynamo front wheel; the bike is a super comfortable ripper; Patagonia for the M10 shell and Alpine Houdini rain pants; Intelligent Design Cycles for the SP PD-8 dynamo hub; and K-Lite for awesomely powerful dynamo lighting.
However, another woman also overcame tremendous odds to keep on riding. Her name is Amy Williams and she had flown from London to Portland with her new small woman’s-size lightweight bike, pannier bags etc..
When I joined the racers at 8 am for the first short 18-mile leg to Seaside, I rode at the back of the group to keep out of the way and found myself alongside her and barely able to keep up! We chatted briefly and I quickly snapped a photo of her when we reached the traffic lights onto Hwy 101.
But that’s not my only memory of the morning the Trans Am started. I attempted to direct the last man and woman in the race to head south along a back street beside the river, but they insisted on following their GPS to the beach, where they rode straight on to the Seaside Promenade–a pedestrian “boardwalk” beside the beach.
I pointed out that this was not a bike route, but quickly realized I was outvoted by the modern trust in GPS. I followed slowly along and stopped to dismount when the foot traffic increased. This made me the target for some outraged holiday makers who were still fuming after having been forced off the promenade by the horde of 60 speeding Trans Am riders!
One lady started to cross-examine me on the organization behind this dangerous behaviour and I found myself having to apologize for an event I wasn’t even part of. This gave the two racers in front of me the chance to slip away. After a few minutes of verbal abuse, I decided I had taken enough and turned back, as they had informed the local police would soon be arriving at the only vehicle access point–the turnaround with the Lewis & Clark statue.
Then I turned round and returned the same way on the back road to Astoria, passing Fort Clatsop national historic monument. Three days later, amy stopped at a café in McKenzie Bridge, while riding over the Cascades, and came out to find her beloved bike was gone, leaving her with only a passport and a wallet. She returned to Eugene where some local cyclists helped her recover.
Her sister in London immediately started a crowd-funding site that raised enough money to pay for a replacement bike, but the nearest shop with the right size small frame in stock was in a bike shop in Colorado. She rode the bus east, bought the bike and the equipment she needed, and re-joined the slower riders on the route….
So, I think she deserves a mention just for getting back in the race, and gave this story to the Daily Astorian newspaper, where it was published in the Weekend supplement. A month later, she was riding into Kentucky at a modest speed, so was probably getting enough rest to enjoy the scenery!
I was able to enjoy the presence of all these cyclists in my home town of Astoria, but that does not mean I approve of so-called “races” that require expended sleep deprivation—no matter how popular they may become. To me, that stops being sport after a weekend, and starts being a stunt very quickly. Cycling alone when over-tired, especially at night, is dangerous, pointless and, worse of all, eating gas-station/convenience store food for a month is cruel and unusual punishment.
Also, in my opinion, the organizer of the race, Nathan Jones, attitude to reporting his race is a disgrace to the sport. Despite all the riders being tracked non-stop by GPS, the race to the finish line was impossible to follow on his race website, Facebook, Twitter etc. Two months after the leaders finished there was still no official result!
So the sporting world never learned that a woman won this race in an incredible feat of endurance from any major cycling or sports website. Endurance sports fans everywhere would have been better informed if Jones had stayed home and written coherent progress reports instead of filming himself mumbling into his camera for 10-15 minutes several times a day!(Watch for yourself here: and you will see why I say please don’t support his pathetic demand for more money to buy a better camera: Trans Am Bike Race Media Fund.)