"Thank you for your service".
The Americans are renowned for the way they appreciate their veterans and Oceanside, California didn't fail to deliver.
As the team and support crew waited in the sunshine near the start line of the Race Across America 2017 fellow competitors, members of the public and even the police escort all took time to shake our riders' hands and pose for photographs with them. An Aussie team even broadcast them live on Facebook.
Then it was time.
12 months ago Crew Chief JonPaul Nevin floated the idea of redoing RAAM, having raced with a team of WIS veterans in 2012. Six months later these riders upped their training, clocking 32000 miles of practice rides and passing a tough selection process...to get to this moment.
Sitting at the start line as a team of eight, smiling from ear to ear, pumped and ready to smash this race as the officiator counted down, the crowds roars went up.
It was hard work getting to this point, but the real graft is just beggining.
The first 12 hours saw sandstorms, temperatures of 117°F (44°C), climbs of more than 10,000 feet and gallons of water drunk. Other teams have cheered and clapped as we've ridden past, they've offered help if we need it and they've been in awe of our awesome riders.
The team is split in to two 4-man multiples. The first out, Joe Townsend, Jaco Van Gass, Ryan Gray and Josh Boggi. On two hand bikes and two road bikes, they're missing 6 limbs (and a finger!) between them.
They've overcome their injuries, today they conquered the desert and one of the most famous descents in California the Glass Elevator.
As they raced hard, hunting down the other teams in the desert and leaving them in their dust trails, the other four riders and their support drove on 200 miles to rest up and wait to take on the graveyard shift. Rewarded with free ice creams and grateful the air con was finally working again in the RVs, they waited.
Just before midnight, 11 hours after the starting gun went, it was time for the changeover. The camp was like an oasis in the desert as we arrived. Solar showers, dinners and the brew pot all ready and waiting to wash the dust and sweat of the day away.
The first multiple has set a high standard, averaging speeds of over 20mph despite the heat. As they prepare to rest up, the next squad is pumped and ready to ride out in to the dark night. The Race is on. With just 2866 miles to go.
Friday 5 May 2017Three Help for Heroes beneficiaries have set off on their challenge of a lifetime riding through Britain.
Big or small, every donation makes a difference to our wounded Servicemen and women and their loved ones.