Westporters Set Cross Country Bike Race Record. The Rest Of Us Are Slugs.

I have written stories about Westporters who have rowed across the Atlantic Oceanrun a marathon at the North Pole, and raced 156 miles across the Moroccan desert in 5 days — while carrying all food and equipment on his back.

Now here’s another neighbor who will make you feel like a worthless sloth, even if you did Crossfit for 8 hours in between performing brain surgery and ensuring world peace.

Mark Pattinson and Eneas Freyre bicycled across America. They rode 3,000 miles from Oceanside, California to Annapolis, Maryland. They climbed 175,000 feet, crossed 3 major mountain ranges, 2 deserts, and 12 states. That’s almost 1/2 again as long as the Tour de France. (Which takes 21 days.)

Riding 1-hour shifts — which means eating, drinking, washing and sleeping, all during the 1 hour “off” — the 2 men raced cross country in just 6 days, 11 hours.

Their average time of 19.79 miles an hour was achieved despite biking the final 2 days in torrential rain — with an easterly wind blowing in their faces. It started as they crossed the Mississippi River, and did not let up all the way to Maryland.

Still — this almost sounds like an afterthought — they set a Race Across America 2-man record. They blew past the previous average of 19.65 miles per hour.

If you’re as exhausted reading this as I was typing it, take a rest. You deserve it!

Mark Pattinson (right) with support crew member Gabriel Holm.

Welcome back! Ready for more?

This was not Pattinson’s 1st rodeo — er, ride from one coast to the other. He did it 8 previous times since 2008, finishing 2nd 4 times. You can read about one of those races here.

Those were all solo efforts. He slept a couple of hours a night, for 9 days — and so did his support crew.

This time, Pattinson and Freyre were always on the move. So were their support vehicles. The logistics were almost as much a challenge as the physical effort.

Almost.

On the road, somewhere in America.

Pattinson — who in real life works in finance, and has 4 kids ranging in age from 18 to 7 — is a very experienced cross country bike rider.

Freyre was not.

But he owns TT Endurance, the “total training” cycling and running center on the Post Road opposite the Toyota dealer.

Pattinson trains there. They realized that his experience, coupled with Freyre’s speed, would make an ideal team.

The guidebook told racers where to go. It did not tell them how to prepare.

Pattinson knew how to prepare for the event. Freyre devised his own routine.

He left his house in Redding, and biked to Westport. He trained clients all day, riding a stationary bike himself during breaks.

He’d leave TT around 9 p.m., then ride home for another hour and a half in the dark.

A few weeks before this year’s Race Across America, the duo flew to California for a simulation. With a skeleton support crew, they rode the first 600 miles of the course, far into the Arizona desert.

It took them just 30 hours.

Westport’s 2 riders at the start of the Race Across America, in Oceanside, California.

Freyre knew he could ride quickly. But could he keep it up? The test showed him he could.

“Mark was confident. He’d done it before,” Freyre says. “I was learning to manage my nutrition, keep my stress levels low, and decompress as much as possible when I was off the bike.”

Earlier this month, they pedaled off.

When Freyre asked Pattinson how fast he should be going, his partner replied, “Don’t slow down.”

Time for another break! See you in a few minutes!

The sun set. Mark Pattinson and Eneas Freyre pedaled on.

In addition to everything else, it should be noted that the 22 teams in the Race Across America included 4 8-man squads, and 16 4-man teams. Only 4 of those larger teams beat Pattinson and Freyre.

The riders in 4- and 8-man teams got up to 6 hours of sleep each. Pattinson and Freyre had 20-minute naps.

How is that humanly possible?

“We just kept going,” Pattinson says, as simply as saying that if you leave TT Endurance and take a right, you’ll be on the Sherwood Island Connector.

“It was tiring, but we managed to eat, drink and sleep in the back of the van and then keep going.”

Freyre adds, “Mark put together an awesome crew. They knew how to keep everyone and everything moving.”

The 10 men and women — including 2017 Staples High School graduate Gabriel Holm, who just completed his first year at the University of Chicago — had plenty to do. Their vehicles protected the rider (especially at night); provided clothes and food and water, along with a place to nap; ferried the resting rider to the next changeover spot, and drove other crew members.

But they had challenges too. In the middle of the rainstorm, with 2 days to go, one of the vehicles — with Pattinson in it — suffered an electrical failure.

Freyre rode for well over an hour, looking for the changeover car with Pattinson. Another vehicle came, and relayed the message: He’d have to ride indefinitely, while arrangements were made to pick up Pattinson and bring him there.

“I was soaking wet. I had no idea when I could stop,” Freyre recalls.

Fortunately, it took only another hour for the other crew to fetch Pattinson, switch supplies, roar up the road and provide relief.

“That was the turning point,” Freyre says. “It could have been a disaster. But I stayed on the bike, Mark stayed calm, and the crew did its job.”

They were buoyed by the support of family members and TT clients, who watched on the Race’s live tracker and sent messages of encouragement. “They brought us home,” Freyre says.

They finished — wet, exhausted, but feeling “pretty good” — at 2 a.m. It was not exactly like the end of the Tour de France.

Mark and Eneas: ta-da!

Speaking metaphorically of the entire race — not just the end — Pattinson says, “It can be dark physically. And you can doubt why you’re there. But when you’ve got all that support behind you, you can do it.”

Well, you can do it, Mark and Eneas.

Congratulations on an amazing, record-breaking and almost unbelievable achievement.

Now it’s time for my nap.

 

7 responses to “Westporters Set Cross Country Bike Race Record. The Rest Of Us Are Slugs.

  1. Curtis Lueker

    Congrats Eneas and Mark! An absolutely amazing accomplishment.

  2. Mary Cookman Schmerker SHS '58

    Incredible and beautiful!

  3. Seth Goltzer

    A great achievement. ABC Sports used to cover the event, but now very few people are aware of it. There are many inspiring stories connected with RAAM , well worth looking into.

  4. Congratulations, gentlemen!

    As a personal aside, I crewed for Bob Fourney (who would go on to win the solo men’s division twice) in two of his RAAM efforts. I was an amazing experience (crews get less sleep than the riders, I believe!). It is a grueling sporting event – but it is also fascinating experience in sleep deprivation.

    One person associated with the event from its earliest days with whom folks may be familiar is academic, author (Why People Believe Weird Things), and publisher of The Skeptic, Michael Shermer. His experiences with halucinations in the desert during RAAM ultimately led him to his professional interest in questioning things people believe.

  5. Jim St. Andre

    A truly unbelievable accomplishment!! Mark and Eneas are absolutely the real deal and two of the best athletes (and people) I have met.

    My 12 year old son Alex and I are TTE members and have had the great fortune of training with Eneas for the past few years. Alex is a member of the TTE Youth team and has participated in dozens of cyclocross races as well as criteriums and road races and trains several times a week at TTE.

    After taking Alex to a number of cyclocross races across the northeast, I couldn’t resist joining in and participating in my age group cyclocross races, and now I am hooked on the sport and have enjoyed some of the greatest father/son experiences traveling to and participating in races with Alex and the TTE team.

    I would highly recommend any parents thinking of a new athletic experience for their kids to consider the TTE youth cycling team as well as the adult programs for cycling, running and triathlons for themselves. Eneas and his staff are absolute experts and live and breathe endurance sports.

    Kudos again to Mark and Eneas!!

  6. Congratulations, Eneas and Mark on this amazing accomplishment!

    Very few among us qualify as elite athletes. But you inspire ALL of us at TTEndurance–regardless of ability–to discover the joy and reward of endurance athletics every day. With Eneas’ coaching and the support of his coaches and staff, I’ve achieved cycling milestones I never would have thought possible years ago. The benefits carry over to every day life. Thank you!