At 4 a.m., Dave Mirra patiently posed for every photo request, even for the fan bold enough to ask his sleepy-eyed 4-year-old daughter to snap the shot.
He didn't seem to mind, even at the conclusion of the most grueling five and a half days of his life; after a race that cost him 12 pounds of body weight; and after pulling a double shift in the last 200 miles. For a guy who just finished a bicycle race that spanned 3,020 miles from Oceanside, California, to Annapolis, Maryland, he seemed unfazed, almost fresh. It may have been the appearance by his wife, Lauren, and his daughters, Madison and Mackenzie, who showered him with flowers and hugs when he crossed the finish line.
At precisely 3:19 a.m. on June 20, the team called "The Legends of the Road," which included Mirra, former X Games athletes Ben Bostrom and Micky Dymond, and former professional cyclist Dave Zabriskie, won the four-person team category in the 2014 Race Across America (RAAM) in five days, 11 hours and 41 minutes. The team, organized by 49-year-old Dymond, averaged 22.93 mph in a race that crossed 12 states and climbed a total of 170,000 feet in elevation. They were on pace to break the four-person race record of 23.06 mph (2004) until the final day when a severe chest cold hampered Dymond and Mirra stepped in to help. Not only were they chasing the speed record, they battled to win the race for the first 2,900 miles against Innovation Africa, a team that included two professional cyclists and two Category 2 racers. On the final day, they swapped the race lead several times before a wrong turn caused their challengers to drop off.
RAAM started in 1982 as a solo race against just four men. In 2014, the 270 entrants were divided among solo and tandem riders, and teams from two to eight riders. It's marketed as the toughest endurance event in the world. While over 3,000 unique individuals have summited Mount Everest, less than 350 solo and tandem riders have finished RAAM. Unlike a stage race, the clock at RAAM doesn't stop until the finish, more than 3,000 miles across the back roads and secondary highways of America.
The race earned special attention in 2014, not just from crossover athletes like the Legends team, but from the entry of Pippa Middleton, the sister to Kate, Duchess of Cambridge.
The Legends of the Road didn't win without challenges. Dymond, a former AMA Motocross and Supermoto champion had an emergency root canal the day before the start. The 12-person support crew, spread among two chase vehicles and an RV, was underfunded. The RV, a 2006 Seneca Toyhauler by Jayco, was borrowed from a friend and had generator problems, and the air conditioning didn't work. With only 81 gallons of water and no time to stop and fill the tank, showers weren't an option, either. And, with space for only four people to sleep, quarters were tight.
Mirra, who is second behind skateboarder Bob Burnquist on the all-time X Games medal count (24), ranked this win as, mentally, one of the toughest accomplishments of his life. It's also a victory that awards no prize money or bonuses.
"You gotta really want to do this," he said. "You can't just kind of want to do this. But it really wasn't hard to ride my bike for five days. That's five days of freedom to disconnect yourself from the world. It's actually kind of easy to be able to do that."
A BMX Freestyle legend turned rally car driver turned triathlete, Mirra, now 40, is laser-focused on pushing his body to extremes. He built his career on park and vert run that lasted 60 seconds and tricks like the double backflip. Now he's hooked on triathlons.
On June 1, he finished 62nd overall (out of over 2000) in a half-Ironman in North Carolina. One week later, and only six days out from starting RAAM, he competed in another half-Ironman, in Massachusetts, but dropped out one mile into the 13.1-mile run. He admitted it wasn't the wisest decision to race back-to-back half-Ironman events one week before the hardest race of his life. And even though RAAM fits Mirra's new fitness goals, his participation still took a lot of convincing from Dymond, who competed in X Games SuperMoto six times between 2004 and '09.
"I promised them it would be an adventure, and I think I delivered on that," Dymond said.
The race strategy broke the four-rider team into two groups; Dymond and Bostrom, and Zabriskie and Mirra. One group rotated riders for 4-5 hours while the other group sprinted ahead in the RV and rested. The two-rider rotations at the start of the race were between 30-40 minutes but dwindled to 15-20 minutes to maintain rider power output. Motor vehicle traffic laws applied, and navigation blunders were a race element as much as fatigue and weather.
Bostrom, the 1998 AMA Superbike champion and 2004 X Games SuperMoto gold medalist, is now a professional mountain bike racer. He didn't anticipate battling for a win but admitted that, while it was "incredibly tortuous," the back and forth with Innovation Africa kept the event interesting.
"It brought the racing personalities out in us," he said. "Otherwise it would have just been a ride. Instead, it was a death march to Annapolis. You didn't want to let down one of your teammates. The intensity level for five days was gnarly, and we're exhausted. And as bad as we are, we got to at least take little naps. The crew barely sleeps and everyone has got to be so shattered. As far as a race goes, I can't think of one that is harder on the rider and the crew."
Dymond's original plan for RAAM was to race it solo. His girlfriend, Brenda Lyons, a former professional mountain biker and sister to BMX legend Todd Lyons, inspired him to take his recreational cycling up a notch. For his first year in RAAM, he postponed his solo idea to 2015 and put together The Legends of the Road for 2014. He convinced Bostrom and Mirra and Bostrom convinced Zabriskie.
"There are so many cool things about getting to know people who are so gifted," Dymond said. "They're like specimens. You should put them in a jar. To do a solo, I love the idea of it, but it's a dream I guess and I have a lot of work to get there. I think these memories are going to last and the fabric of my life is going to have those in them forever."
Dymond, also a former Pikes Peak Hillclimb motorcycle division record-holder, has only one week to relish his memories before he travels to Colorado to win back his record.