Friday, July 11, 2014

Stefan's Race

Stefan chills out before the race. His crew is ready to go.

Post-RAAM talk continues as racers and crew begin to tell their stories of the race. For me, looking back, I have many memories and experiences that I'll fondly remember. One was connecting with other riders and their teams as we crossed the country together, including my Instagram pal Florian Oeser and solo male racer Stefan Schlegel. What a fun team!

Stefan was expected to do well in the race, with speculation he could finish a close second to Christoph Strasser, so I didn't expect to see him or Florian after the start of the race. On day two, after I ended my follow shift and drove ahead down the course in the errand vehicle, we passed Stefan on a climb. I was shocked to see him! I truly expected he'd be further along in the race. I yelled out to him and his crew as we passed, and they gave me a wave and a smile and a thumbs up. I thought all was o.k.

I later learned, while Ingrid and I were swapping shifts, that Stefan took a brutal fall coming down the glass elevator into the Borrego Springs desert. My heart just sank. I was scared and concerned and just sick with worry. (Ingrid ran into Stefan's crew at the Congress time station -- I was ahead in Prescott -- and Florian told her about the crash.) At that point, he had serious road rash and abrasions, and they weren't sure how the rest of the race would go. It would be another 2 days before I heard from Florian that Stefan was o.k.

The crash was caught on video, and I promised myself that I wouldn't watch it until I got home. I just couldn't bear to think about how close he came to serious injury. I've since seen the video, (part of which is posted below), and it's just gut wrenching to me. What's missing in that video is the death drop on the other side of the guard rail he slammed into. You also don't get a sense of the astonishing speed he was travelling as he made that descent, or the violent impact he made on that rail when he crashed. It makes me sick just thinking about it, and I'm so, so grateful he's o.k.

Stefan, Florian and their team continued on after the crash. No doubt they had ups and downs and a very tough journey, but at the end of the race, they came in 5th place -- 10 days, 14 hours, 32 minutes. Less than 36 hours after second place finisher Mark Pattinson. Astonishing. Congrats to my German friends. You are amazing.