By Michael Lion Lau, 1998 solo finisher
In the first 100 miles, a group of seven were riding within two to three minutes of each other. We exchanged leads many times among us. The group included Llama, Mountaingoat, Tigger, Greyhound, Brahma Bull, Macaw and Lion. Cassandra Llama Lowe of Australia was setting a very impressive pace on the climbs early on. The Austria tandem or the Wolves passed the lead solo riders just before TS #1.
On a left turn at mile 118.6 at the top of the Johannesburg climb, my rear wheel slipped on the gravel at the stop line of the left lane and I went down on my bike. Macaw was just a few seconds behind me. My body went into shock and both my calves cramped up. My hands, elbows, shoulders, knees and chest were scraped and bruised as a result. After sitting close to 20 seconds on the road, Macaw crew (Kaname and his wife) and my crew, Leslie lifted me up on my feet. I was able to walk over and sat on the lawn chair. Leslie was cleaning my wounds while I helplessly watched the riders and their crew went by us. The bike handlebar was twisted but Kaname fixed it up for me. My crew, Aki then told me my left shifter was broken. I jumped out of my lawn chair and took a quick look. I was relieved to find out the rubber of brake hood was torn but the shifting was fine. After a 15–20 minutes break, I resume my journey. I noticed the front wheel was a bit wobble and the handlebar was not exactly straight but I did not have time to waste to fix them up.
After the crash, I decided to ease the pace to avoid any more cramps. I passed Llama in her PSV a few miles down the road and I would not see her again. I did not see anyone else until I passed Brahma Bull-et during his break at the bottom of Townes Pass. The only rider that I saw going up the 4000' climb of the ride was Greyhound. He was about 1–2 miles ahead. After a quick dinner and a change of clothes at the top (mile 210), I descended 5500' down to Death Valley in the dark. The Heron crested the top just as I left. Greyhound flew by me during the descent. My 50x12 gear was definitely not sufficient for the descent. We were peeling our clothes off on our bike as we descended from the cold summit to the warm desert below. I gave up the Greyhound chase near the bottom to take my knee warmer/clothes off. My illiotibial band on my left knee started to hurt just before TS #3 at Furnace Creek. My crews were concerned if I could continue the ride. Fortunately, the knee pain would disappear later when the cold temperature naturally ice my sore knee.
As I climbed up the left bend up Jubilee Pass, I spot the Greyhound about a few miles ahead and somebody within one mile back. My crew told me it was probably a relay team rider. That rider passed me when I stopped to put on my wind breaker. I did not notice any bikes on top of that minivan of that rider. Also, there is no totem name at the back at his van either. He must be a solo rider and he turned out to be the Heron. He started to slow down shortly after he passed me. I picked up the pace and passed him back about one minute later. Just before the summit of Jubilee Pass, the two relay teams from Bakersfield passed me within two minutes. At the Shoshone time station, Heron passed us when we stopped for ten minutes to fix my light. I passed the Heron again a few miles down the road when he took his break. Half way up the Ibex Pass, I passed the Greyhound during his break. We exchanged greetings and I continued on. I rode through the night without sleep and arrived Baker (TS #5) at dawn. Greyhound was very fresh after a short sleep and flew by me just before Baker. I passed the TS about 10-15 seconds behind him. At Baker, I stopped for a few minutes to eat my breakfast. The Heron was about 11 minutes behind at that point.
Next, I head up the 15 mile climb up Kelso Peak and the 12 mile climb up Granite Mountain into a cool head wind. I saw the Greyhound one mile ahead taking a break about 3–4 miles into the Kelso climb. All the tough climbs were completed after Granite Mountain. I then descended 20 miles into a hot and dry head wind to Amboy (TS #6). After a quick stop at Amboy, I noticed the trouble as the Heron PSV was leapfrog behind me. With 48 miles to go, the Heron was only 90 seconds behind me. My race was on! Both crews were spying on the other riders. I kept asking my crew to inform about the Heron behind me but they did not reply. In fact, the Heron had given up the chase when he saw me picking up the pace. I was exhausted when I crossed the finish line at Twentynine Palms. Chris Kostman and my crew greeted me as I crossed the finish ribbon and Seana Hogan was the first to congratulate me. We all cheered the Heron when he came in seven minutes and eight seconds behind me.
The first three solo riders finished within 43 minutes of each other. The next three riders (Greyhound, Lion and Heron) chased one another for 300 miles and finished within 21 minutes of each other. A total of 32.6 liters of fluid and 13,300 calories were consumed during the ride. My 100-mile splits were 5:19, 5:39, 7:10, 7:57 and 7:10. My crews, Aki Inoue and Leslie Bullock did a wonderful job in keeping me on the bike.