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By Vic Armijo
Annapolis, Maryland
6/20/08, 20:40EST

It was a bitter sweet moment for Caroline Van den bulk when she reached the Race Across America finish line this evening. For although she had completed the 3014 mile course of this 27th annual event, she unfortunately missed the official cut-off by nearly three hours. So she missed out on getting the finisher’s medal and the presentation ceremony that goes with it. She did receive the accolades of the crowd, which actually, was larger than those in attendance for some of the official finishers.

After riding under the finish banner she stopped and was instantly embraced one by one by each of her crew members. She thanked them all, calling them “the best crew I could ever think about having,” and she especially thanked her personal trainer Andrew Urban, who she calls “When you do this race you get where you don’t know anything of what you are doing, except for pedaling. Without him I would not be standing here. He was my brain!”

Urban was with her for her ’07 RAAM assault which ended in Colorado. And it appears his training has helped her to improve, “It felt very good that moment when I pass the place where I stopped last year. And it felt great! And then shortly after that we had the halfway point.” The halfway point in Kansas is a minor victory that comes at a time when RAAM riders need it most, for like many racers, Van den bulk called Kansas the hardest section, “Because it is so boring. Just nothing forever!”

Many RAAM pundits had been concerned about her ever since she took to walking toward the summit of the highest climb on this year’s RAAM, La Manga Pass, at 10,275 feet. “Yeah, I didn’t want to kill myself,” she said of her time spent walking, “So I walked for a couple of minutes.” Once over the summit she enjoyed a long descent, “Where you can pedal without much effort, very good recovery. It was very fast and I had to wait for my follow car!”

The days after Colorado have been much like that day, up and down. She had good miles, bad miles, took a spill and skinned a knee. Some nights, despite her fatigue, she couldn’t get to sleep, “I stop for sleep, lay down, but only get twelve minutes sleep.” But in the end she’s glad that she did it. “I always say, I am doing things that other people are dreaming of. But for this one, you need to be prepared. In some races they joke, ‘If you are not ready for this, stay home.’ I think this one is the most serious. If you have money enough and time enough and support enough of course you can come out and try something out. But if you are not really prepared, forget it.”

AS THE SUN SETS...: Caroline Van den bulk rode into Annapolis this evening, just before sunset, as the very last rider, marking the end of the 27th Annual Race Across America.

“MY BRAIN” Without Andrew Urban to do the thinking and decision making when Caroline was no longer able, she never would have made it to Annapolis.

“THE BEST CREW…” Carline Van den bulk and the crew that helped her, motivated her, coached her, fed her and did everything but carry her to get her to the finish.
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