The four are riding as Team Autoimmune, raising money for the American Autoimmune Related Diseases Association.
“Some of our riders’ families and crew members suffer from autoimmune diseases such as Crohn’s disease, lupus, type 1 diabetes, psoriatic arthritis, multiple sclerosis and demyelinating polyneuropathy,” Brunckhorst said. “We are personally funding the registration fees, crew RV, two follow cars, our transportation to and from the race, hotels and all bicycling equipment.”
The four riders gathered last Sunday evening for pictures and practice before their drive to California for the race’s start.
“I just rode eight days in a row,” Cramer said, which prompted Brunckhorst to retort, “I just did 57.”
Weida looked at her and asked,” You did 57 in a row?”
“I think I missed three days since January,” she said.
Weida said he has done 30 rides of 100 miles since they registered the team last October and then added, “That’s 3,000 miles, the same as RAAM.”
Unlike the Tour de France, once the race starts, the clock does not stop. Teams have a maximum of nine days to complete the 3,020 miles, against teams from around the world racing for their own charities. Solo riders have 12 days.
The Race Across America sees cyclists from 22 countries passing through 55 time stations, one of which is in Oxford again this year and has them crossing deserts, the Rocky Mountains, the plains and Appalachian Mountains.
Cramer may have the toughest experience of the four in training, having hit a deer during a training ride in early May.
“I’ve never hit a deer with my car, but I did with my bike,” Cramer said. “I was going downhill about 25 or 30 miles per hour. I was riding with a buddy and I saw movement to the side. The deer ran in front of me. I hit it in the ribs. It broke my bike in half. We were about 40 miles from where we parked our cars. It was unlucky.”
Unlucky, but not as bad as it could have been. He escaped with some “road rash” but otherwise intact. As a result, he is riding his back-up bike, which he likes but had the other one all decked out especially for RAAM.
The race is an endurance test but preparing for it also requires a lot of work.
“Getting a crew together is about the hardest part of doing this,” Weida said when asked about the challenges of taking part in RAAM.
Brunckhorst, despite her miles of training, said the toughest part is thinking about riding her bike across country at 16 miles per hour, but she added, “I’ll be happy if I can get a shower every 48 hours.”
Gaker said the thing he fears most is the desert. Brunckhorst said she is prone to severe headaches when dehydrated and will have an IV in the van to get fluids into her system to stave off the headaches, especially while riding in the desert.
Weida said he does not fear the physicality of the race, but does admit to one potential problem.
“Those things do not bother me as much as being on my butt for nine days in a row,” he said with a laugh referring to being on a bicycle seat so much.
The riders and crew plan to leave Oxford today, June 14, for a three-day ride to San Diego to get ready for their cross-country trip starting June 20.
Crew member Brian Nobbe, owner of the Marathon station in Brookville, is also the team’s alternate rider but he can only replace a rider up to the time of the start. Once the race is started, only the original four riders may ride and if something prevents one of them from continuing, it is up to the remaining three.
There are also various points along the route that riders must clear within a certain amount of time or the entire team will be disqualified.
“We have been told to have a strategy and a plan and to expect the plan to be out the window after the first day,” Weida said, adding the team’s plan is to pair off into two teams and run 12-hour shifts, allowing the two who are off the road to sleep in the RV.
Spectators can visit www.raceacrossamerica.org for information about all riders and teams. Progress of the team will also be documented at www.bikeohio.raam or the team’s Facebook page at
An app is available to download at www.tractalis.com. The app can be used to trace a team’s progress.
This will be the 34th year for Race Across America, widely recognized as the world’s toughest endurance bicycle race. It is open to solo racers as well as two-, four- and eight-person teams. Solo racers must qualify by completing one of 30 qualifying events worldwide, but no qualification is required for teams.
RAAM is one of America’s longest continuously running cycling events.