The RAAM. The Race Across America. It’s an incredible event, and generally regarded as The World’s Toughest Bike Race. It is 3000 miles long, and to finish, solo racers must complete the ride in 12 days, and teams must complete it in 7.
Anchorage has close ties to the RAAM, as it is home for 2 RAAM record holders and at least 6 RAAM racers. We believe it all started in 1999, when Peter Lekisch, Robert Voris, George Stransky, and Jim Mendenhall raced as a team in the 50 and over age category. They made excellent time, (coming in second only to a team from the Royal Air Force who crushed the field). They completed the race in 6 days, 16 hours, and 42 minutes. Shortly after, Peter Lekisch decided he wanted to try RAAM solo. It took a year of training, and in 2001 he became the first solo racer to attempt the 60 years and older age category. It was an enormous effort. About mid-way, Peter was hospitalized due to his depleted condition. But he was determined to continue, and in fact became stronger as the race continued. He succeeded and became the first 60 year old racer to complete RAAM.
The Anchorage RAAM racers decided Alaska needed a RAAM qualifier. Thus the Fireweed 400 was born. Ben Courturier qualified for RAAM via the Fireweed 400, and decided to become the youngest RAAM finisher. It was 2005, and Ben not only met his goal of becoming the youngest finisher, he finished seventh! What a remarkable achievement for a rookie!
In 2007, another Fireweed champion, Jeff Oatley, not only raced RAAM, but came in seventh for his age division!
In Anchorage, we rub shoulders with elite athletes.
Join us on February 17 at 8PM at the Bear’s Tooth for Anchorage’s first screening of Bicycle Dreams. Continue reading »