Christoph Strasser (This photo was downloaded from RAAM’s Facebook page and is being used here for representation purpose. No copyright infringement intended)

Christoph Strasser has won the solo category of Race Across America (RAAM) for the sixth time.

The Austrian cyclist covered the distance – a little over 3000 miles (roughly 4800 kilometers) from Oceanside, California on the US west coast to Annapolis, Maryland in the east – in eight days, six hours, 51 minutes. The time mentioned is as per commentary accompanying live streaming of the finish, available on the event’s Facebook page and update posted on Strasser’s Instagram account.

With Thursday’s finish (Thursday, June 20, 2019 in India) Strasser, 36, has the maximum number of solo wins at RAAM in the men’s segment. Overall at RAAM, he shares that distinction with veteran woman cyclist, Seana Hogan of the US, who too has six wins to her credit. Last year’s win had put Strasser on par with the late Jure Robic of Slovenia, who won RAAM five times; in 2004, 2005, 2007, 2008 and 2010. Strasser won in 2011, 2013, 2014, 2017, 2018 and now 2019; he placed second in 2012.

From his six wins at RAAM, two were in the seven-day bracket. The rest took eight days. 2019 would rank second fastest from his kitty of eight-day finishes. His previous timings were: 2011 – eight days, eight hours, six minutes, 2013 – seven days, 22 hours, 52 minutes, 2014 – seven days, 15 hours, 56 minutes, 2017 – eight days, nine hours, 34 minutes and 2018 – eight days, one hour, 23 minutes.  Strasser’s timing from 2014 remains the course record. Among the world’s leading ultra-cyclists, he also owns the record for most distance covered on a road bike in 24 hours – 556.85 miles (896.17 kilometers), set in 2015.

This year there is one Indian cyclist – Kabir Rachure from Navi Mumbai – racing in RAAM’s solo category. In the run up to the 2019 edition of RAAM, two other Indian cyclists who were expected to participate – Sundaram and Lt Col Bharat Pannu – had to pull out due to injury. At the time of writing Kabir had covered 2165 miles as per the race live tracker. In the same age category (under 50) as Strasser, Kabir was placed tenth in that group. Two cyclists from the group had pulled out (DNF – Did Not Finish).

Slovenia’s Marko Baloh (2727 miles covered), Denmark’s Jakob Olsen (2680 miles), SOLO Kiwi / Craig Harper of New Zealand (2520 miles) and Canada’s Peter Oyler (2493 miles) were the cyclists immediately following Strasser. Please note: the miles logged have been rounded off to the nearest whole number and are as seen on live tracker around the time Strasser finished.

Kabir Rachure (right) with Christoph Strasser during a ride ahead of 2019 RAAM, in the US. (This photo was downloaded from Kabir’s Facebook page)

In the case of women the leaders were Brazil’s Daniela Genovesi (2480 miles) and Leah Goldstein of Canada (2447 miles). Both these riders are from the 50-59 years age category. They were followed by Austria’s Alexandra Meixner (2236 miles), Japan’s Chieko Ozawa (2225 miles) and Switzerland’s Isa Pulver (2195 miles).

Seana Hogan was at 2042 miles. She is in the 60-69 years age category. Record holder for the most number of solo wins at RAAM in the women’s category, she won – in 1992, 1993, 1994, 1995, 1997 and 1998. She also holds the transcontinental record among women having cycled the distance in nine days, four hours and two minutes.

The first Indian solo finishes at RAAM happened in 2017. Lt Col Srinivas Gokulnath earned the distinction of being the first Indian solo cyclist to complete RAAM. He finished in 11 days, 18 hours, 45 minutes. Srinivas was followed by Dr Amit Samarth, who became the first Indian to complete RAAM in the solo category on the very first attempt in 11 days, 21 hours, 11 minutes. The first Indian finish at RAAM was in 2015 when the Mahajan brothers – Dr Hitendra Mahajan and Dr Mahendra Mahajan – completed the race in eight days, 11 hours as a two person-team.

(The author, Shyam G Menon, is a freelance journalist based in Mumbai.)

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