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One long ride

Locals prepare for cross-country bicycle race

Joshua Spaulding image
by Joshua Spaulding
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Sports Editor - Salmon Press Newspapers

The Tandem RAAM team poses for a photo at the Common Man in Plymouth before heading west for the start of the cross-country race. Courtesy Photo. (click for larger version)
June 05, 2017
PLYMOUTH — John Jurczynski and Ann Rasmussen have some pedaling ahead of them.

The two local residents are set to embark on a journey across America on a tandem bicycle, starting in Oceanside, Calif. on June 13 and finishing in Annapolis, Md.

The two cyclists are competing in the Race Across America (RAAM) 2017, a non-stop race across the country as a fundraiser for First Descents, a non-profit organization providing outdoor experiences for young adult cancer survivors.

For Jurczynski, this will not be the first time he's cycled across the country. He made the journey solo in 1980 and twice in 1982, which also happened to be the first year of RAAM.

He saw the broadcast of the event and immediately became interested, but as happens, things got in the way.

"Life got in the way," Jurczynski said. "But 25 years later, I did Race Across America."

Jurczynski, who works at Rockywold-Deephaven Camps, did RAAM solo in 2007, his fourth trip across the country on his bicycle. Despite battling injuries along the way, he finished tops in his age group.

"But I wanted to go back at some point and do better than I did," Jurczynski said.

However, another injury put that dream on the shelf for a while and in the meantime, he began riding a tandem bicycle and found Rasmussen, who works at Plymouth Regional High School.

"She's an incredible athlete," Jurczynski said. "We started doing well at events and this is kind of the culmination of three years of riding together."

"And at 60 (Jurczynski) and 53 (Rasmussen) if we didn't give it a shot now, we'd probably never do it," he added.

When he first raised funds during a ride across the country, Jurczynski supported diabetes research and this time they wanted to find another good charity to work toward and that led them to First Descents. Cancer had affected both of their families so they knew that cancer would be the cause.

"And First Descents really fits us well because it provides an adventure program for young adults who've battled cancer," Jurczynski said. The group did a program at the camp Jurczynski works at and he came away impressed with their work. The duo worked with Jen Morris in helping to fundraise for the race.

In addition to the fundraising, the tandem group also has an entire support team coming along for the trip.

"You're required to have support vans, at least two vehicles, so I can be resting," Jurczynski said. "They generally stay behind us and at night they have to be clearly behind us to help prevent accidents."

Chris Hodges, who works in Waterville Valley, will be the team's crew chief and this will be his second RAAM experience after crewing in 2011.

Retired elementary school teacher Jane Kellogg is the assistant crew chief and also worked on Jurczynski's RAAM ride in 2007.

Also back 10 years after helping in the 2007 race is Jim Gagne, who will be the medical man for the team.

Ron Reynolds is the team "MacGyver" according to Jaczynski and will be the team's mechanic.

The duo were also lucky enough to get another RAAM rider on board for the team. Brett Walker completed the solo RAAM in 2007 and competed again in 2011 and also was part of a four-person team for RAAM in 2009.

"Ten years ago, the entire crew wanted to do it again," Jurczynski said, noting he was happy to have two of those team members back this year.

The crew also includes driver and navigator Brad Cilley, cook and hydration specialist Bridget Powers, Kyle Hodges, videographer Cindy Jones, mechanic David Lafferty, webmaster Emily Searles Lafferty, health and wellness provider Barbara McCahan, fundraising guru Morris, raffle queen Carissa O'Gara, transporters Peter and Sue Francesco and Catherine Judkins Douglass and Mike Bombara.

Jurcyznski noted that their support team will include an RV and two minivans. One is the follow vehicle and the other is the carry vehicle and the backup.

"There will be three or four people in the follow vehicle, probably eight to 12 hour shifts," Jurczynski said. "But it depends on how the crew is, that will evolve."

All three vehicles have left New Hampshire and are on their way out, with the Francescos driving one of the vehicles out as they did in 2007. Walker is also driving his RV. The rest of the group, six people, fly out on Saturday, June 10, for the June 13 start.

Out of all the different categories, Jurcyznski said that solo tandem is the hardest as they are the 15th tandem team to try a solo run in 36 years, with the last one coming in 2002.

In order to be official finishers, the duo has to finish in 12 days 21 hours.

"If we do that, we'll get the trans-continental record for mixed tandem in the 50-59 age group" Jurczynski said, noting the age group is determined the average age of the two riders.

"That's a big if," he said. "Forty-two percent of solo riders don't finish. Our odds are in the 30-35 percent range of finishing.

"But we're not looking at it that way," Jurcyznski added.

He noted that if things are going really well, the overall mixed tandem record is 10 days, 22 hours and 40 minutes and they could shoot for that.

The ride covers 12 states and has 175,000 feet of elevation gain. The highest point is in Colorado at Wolf Creek Pass, which is 10,550 feet above sea level.

If riders deviate from the set course, they are disqualified and if they make a wrong turn, they have to go back to where the wrong turn was made and pick it up from there.

The race officially starts on June 13 and anyone looking to follow along should check out tandemraam.com or the Facebook page at Tandem RAAM. The team has an auction site with items up for bid to raise funds for First Descents at https://www.32auctions.com/tandemraam. The auction closes on June 10.

Joshua Spaulding can be reached at 569-3126 or sportsgsn@salmonpress.com.

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