Borrego Sun - Since 1949

RAW 2024


Last updated 6/27/2024 at 11:07am


Paolo Pietro Godardi (Italy), the overall solo winner of the 2024 Race Across the West (RAW)

It was that time again for participants of the annual Race Across the West and Race Across America to make the intense trek through unpredictable weather for the toughest cycling races in the world.

With temperatures blazing at over 100ºF in Borrego Springs (the first time stop of the journey and first 88 miles of the race), it was certainly a change from last year, where temps barely grazed the 90s. Borrego Springs became the first official time stop for Race Across America in 2018. It was not just Borrego Springs that these racers had to endure the extreme heat, as stops along the way became too much, causing more withdrawals and DNF's (did not finish) of racers, the most in previous years.

RAW follows the the RAAM course, from Oceanside, to Durango, Colorado and starts alongside the RAAM solo racers. Traversing some of the most beautiful country in the west, RAW leaves the beach in Oceanside, climbs the Coastal Range and the drops into the scorching desert. After crossing the deserts of California and Arizona, racers begin a gradual climb into the mountains surrounding Flagstaff, Arizona and eventually into the Rocky Mountains. The race finishes at Fort Lewis College in the cycling mecca of Durango, Colorado.

Race Across the West (RAW), is a qualifying race for Race Across America (RAAM).

The race also once again featured Borrego Springs' very own Sylvia Maas, who dedicated her race to raise money for Borrego High School seniors. Maas competed in RAAM (Team Figgy) this year, whereas she participated in the RAW Solo in 2023. More about Maas and RAAM Solo Racers and Teams in the next issue.

On a pleasantly cool night in Durango, Colorado, Paolo Pietro Godardi (Italy) rolled in as the overall solo winner of this 2024 Race Across the West (RAW). The cheerful Italian, racing in the Solo Male 50 – 59 category, completed the 871 miles in 2 days, 1 1 hour, and 17 minutes, for an overall average speed of 17 mph.

His enthusiastic crew joined him under the finish arch, where one member hoisted him up while they all jumped up and down, singing. They then posed for photos with Godardi sporting his finisher's medal, his finisher's plaque, and his crystal trophy for being the fastest solo male finisher.

Godardi, a previous RAW finisher in 2018, and a RAAM finisher in 2023 said "Race Across the West, I love this. But Race Across America it is in my heart!"

Caleb Sprayberry (USA), completed the 861 miles of the Race Across the West, arriving in Durango as the Under 50 Male Solo, 2 days, 16 hours, and 5 minutes after leaving Oceanside, Colorado, for an overall 13.44 mph average.

Eleven months ago it was clear that he was focused on this race – he was the first to sign up when registration opened. He got a taste of RAW last year as half of the 2-Person Male second-place team "Rusty Dogs of War" that took second in the Under 50 2-person Male category.

"Damn, that was hard," were his first words as he reached the finish." But then he immediately wanted to talk about Godardi (Italy), "I don't think he was stronger than me, but he hardly ever stopped. I bet I had twice as much time off the bike than he did. And how do those guys not sleep?" the Army veteran asked. "I mean, the Army put us through some seriously dumb stuff, but nothing like this."

Sprayberry spent 2008 through 2016 in service of the US Army before being medically retired.

Despite his tough effort, Sprayberry was happy with his result. And considering he'd started in ultra-cycling in shorter events, then did 2-person RAW, and now solo RAW, we had to ask if RAAM is in his future. "It's going to take me a lot of time – if ever – to get ready to do a solo RAAM," he said. "It was the dream at one point, and maybe it may be the dream again tomorrow when I wake up, but for right now..."

Domingo Garcia (USA) competed in the solo male 60 – 69 category with a time of three days, seven hours and 29 minutes with an average speed of 10.83.

Competing in the solo female category for RAW this year, there was one entry for categories – 50 – 59 and 60 – 69 and three for under 50.

Fabia Maramotti (Italy), the Ironman Triathlete, cyclist and open water swimmer who says she wants to take on the RAAM, made a major step toward that goal today by taking first place among the solo women in the Race Across America. She reached Durango, Colorado, 861 miles from the start, with an official finish time of 3 days, 2 hours, and 17 minutes (11.59 mph average).

Her finish was an emotional one, with tears flowing over her huge smile the moment she crossed the line, and continuing during the hugs from her crew, and the presentation of her awards.

"I made it! Yes," she exclaimed. "I think this is the craziest race, you know, if someone wants to know what could possibly go wrong and how to find solution, this would be the right race to show them. It started crazy. Five minutes before the start with a brake touching and then so many things happened, but we are here."

Marmotti had a sizable lead over the other two women in her category, the Under 50 Solo Women. Mikie Sevick (USA), were not too far behind her, as well as Vijayshree Sundaram (USA), however, both did not finish.

Maramotti had a small scrape on her elbow. She explained, "I got really excited in the Monument Valley. I'm a big Forrest Gump fan, so I was like there with light and taking pictures and then you know it, it's 7:30 and it was dark and the sandstorm came and I never seen a sandstorm. So it's just debating whether to get in the van and if it was safe enough. It started raining and then all of a sudden just the wind blows and off I was, just made it in time to grab my bike because I think it would have flown away too, but I'm good."

Dorina Vaccaroni (Italy) finished the Solo Female 60 – 69 in three days, eight hours and 25 minutes.

Hand-cyclist Wendy Larsen (USA), a trailblazing wheelchair athlete, competing in the solo female 50 – 59 category, withdrew from the race after reaching, Blythe, California, cited for her DNF (Did Not Finish) was "heat and dehydration." Heat is particularly tough on hand-cyclists whose low-slung machines put them mere inches above the radiating heat from the asphalt below them.

Larsen raced in last year's RAW and while she did make it to the finish line in Durango, Colorado, she did so well after the cut-off time. She was determined to make it time this year.

Larsen was born with multiple rare, genetic diseases, including a primary immunodeficiency disease which left her without a fully functioning immune system, and Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome, a connective tissue disease affecting soft tissue and joints. Her medical history is complex, with her rare diseases resulting in multiple co-morbid conditions including a spinal cord injury and ovarian cancer among others. After decades of doctors telling her she would never be able to run, she finally had enough. In 2006 she was in a horrific auto accident and after nearly losing her leg decided she would defy all odds and run a marathon. In 2010 she crossed her first half marathon finish line on her own two feet.

Team Steinberg Coaching VolleLotte, a Race Across the West 2-person team made up of Melanie Baumann and Steffi Steinberg, two very fast women with a wealths of ultra-endurance experience led the way, reaching the finish line, 817 miles from Oceanside, with a finish time of 1 day, 20 hours, and 41 minutes for average speed of 18.28 mph. This breaks the 2-person Female Under 50 record previously held by 2015's Team Moxie (USA) who posted an average speed of 14.79 mph. Steinberg said, "So to be under two days – it's a good motivation, coming into the finish line here in the Durango.

As with any RAW, there were issues, as Steinberg explained, "After, I don't know, 30 miles, I got really bad tummy and it goes through all the way up to this night so it was a bit like balancing all these things with food no food."

They also dealt with a broken bottom bracket on Bauman's bike, "So it was funny, when she had the broken bracket," Steinberg said, "I said hop on my bike." But Bauman is several inches taller, "She hopped on my bike and it looked like a Bambini bike." In the end, Bauman and her bike were shuttled ahead to High Gear Bike Shop in Prescott. They were able to modify a bottom bracket to work. A RAW thank you goes out to the shop for the MacGyvering ability.

With the bike fixed, Baumann was ready to relieve Steinberg who had been soloing for four hour. "We were lucky because she caught up, or we met pretty much in Prescott, so the bike got fixed, I could get back on track and she was there."

With all the climbing and descending, most of the riders want every gear they can get. But imagine having only one gear, and oh by the way, no ability to coast. That's what EFI, the 2-person Fixed team of Robert Mann, Robert, and Tony Musorafite chose to do on purpose. But their self-imposed handicap didn't seem to hinder them. The two arrived in Durango with a time of 2 days, 5 hours, and 48 minutes to win the 2-Person 50 – 59 category.

When asked why anyone would choose to race on a fixed gear, Musorafite replied, "Stupidity, that's all I can say! Mann chimed in, "He got me into it, into ultra-cycling, and kind of turned me on to fixed gear. I started dabbling in it too. It's a good challenge. That's what I like most about it, the challenge. You can take that tenacity and apply it to many other things.

Fans at home were probably asking, "Is that really age 70+ racer Valerio Zamboni (Monaco) at mile 309?" Yes. Solo men in the age 70 – 79 category are allotted more time to finish (13 days, 5 hours), and are given the option of starting at 5 am instead of noon, which Valerio opted to do, giving him a head-start of approximately 7 hours.

There was also a tandem effort in the Race Across the West with a sighted captain and a blind stoker. Tina Ament (USA) is the stoker, and Kevin West (UK) is the man up front steering the rig – yeah – he's the one with sight. They're racing under the team name "5-Year Plan," which refers to Tina's 5-year journey to make her single-tandem RAAM effort come to fruition. She was on the 2019 4-tandem sighted captain/blind stoker team "See to Sea." That experience inspired her to want to take on RAW and eventually RAAM in a single-tandem effort, but injuries delayed making her dream come true. But she's out there now!

However, due to the high heat on the course, "Team 5-Year Plan" declared a DNF (did not finish), stopping in Prescott, Arizona, some 445 miles from the Oceanside starting line. It was up around 99F/37C again today in Prescott, Arizona. And after having endured similar heat just miles from the start and the two decided to call it.

They were not the only teams to withdraw, as others: Shalom Bikes, The Scorpions and individual riders were DNF.

The 6-12-24 Hour World Time Trial Championships are set for November, but are subject to change.

Social media will be buzzing at Facebook, Twitter (@RAAMraces) and Instagram (@raceacrossamerica) pages.

July 4 issue of the Borrego Sun: More coverage of the Race Across America Solo and Team racers.