Christoph Strasser, a 30-year-old Austrian, captured his second Race Across America title Wednesday, shattering the previous record time for the grueling, 3,000-mile, 12-state race.
Strasser, who worked previously as bike messenger in his native country, completed the annual trancontinental trek from Oceanside, CA in seven days and 22 hours—no one had ever covered the distance before in less than eight days—reaching Annapolis yesterday.
"He didn't stop, he was flying and on record pace," said Larry Black, owner of Mt. Airy Bicycles, the next to last time station in the race. "I've never seen anything like it. He was about 22 hours ahead of the next person in second place."
More riders, who have 12 days to complete the journey—facing all sorts of weather—will be streaming through Mt. Airy, to Odenton, and down into City Dock through the weekend. Time is cumulative, so cyclists sleep as little as possible during the race. Strasser slept about an hour each night. Hallucinations and disorientation are not unusual.
In 2011 when he won previously, Strasser told the New York Times he'd woken on the sixth day not realizing he was in a bike race: “I was going a bit crazy,” Strasser said. “I was waking up and asking my team, ‘Why am I riding a bike?’ and ‘Where are we going?’ I was surprised when they told me we were in a race to Annapolis.”
The race includes 55 time stations for competitors, most, like Strasser, supported by teams, with Maryland stops in Cumberland, Hancock, Mt. Airy, Odenton, and, of course, the finish line in Annapolis.
Black said his shop will remain open 24 hours a day until the end of the race with volunteers, staff, and fans enjoying cookouts and roasted marshmellows over the next few days. "This race is one of the best-kept secrets [in cycling]," Black said.
"It's so great I can't even realize it, because the record—it was from back in 1986 when I was just 3 years old," Strasser said after hitting the finish. "It is unbelievable for me because I was not planning doing this record before the race. I was just trying to be as fast as possible. I was thinking that it can be possible if everything works out, but it was not my concrete plan to do it. So I am really surprised that it has worked so nice."
Leah Goldstein, the 2011 women's winner, has also competed in the women’s Tour de France, and describes RAAM the world’s toughest endurance race.