Tinker Juarez, of Downey, California, made it clear at the finish: compared to all of his World Cup, Olympic and 24-hour mountain bike races, the Race Across America was by far the hardest thing he's ever done.
Finishing as the third Solo Enduro rider (behind Jonathan Boyer and Marko Baloh), and first rookie in his division, with a time of 10 days, 22 hours and 21 minutes, Juarez said in Atlantic City on June 22: "Just finishing this race was the hardest thing I have ever done. There are no words to describe how hard it was."
Juarez never had it easy in the 2006 RAAM. His first crisis came on Day One, when he had difficulty getting comfortable on his aerodynamic bicycles and ended up riding most of the race on his standard carbon/aluminum Cannondale without aero bars.
"I came apart that day, but I regrouped, slept, came back." he said at the finish line in Atlantic City, New Jersey. "And then we hit Kansas. That was the most horrible wind of my life. I put my head down between my legs and rode at 13 mph for 15 hours straight. I don't want to bag Kansas, but it was lonely out there and I was happy to get out of that state."
Not only did he seldom use aero bars, but Juarez also spent hardly any time out of the big chainring; although crew members said that while riding through the Ozarks in Missouri and the Appalachians in West Virginia, he dropped onto the small chainring on a few occasions.
"When I used the (little) ring I felt like I wasn't going anywhere," he explained.
The Juarez crossing was notable for the 65 logged hours he took off the bike, and an estimated additional 10 hours of unlogged down time.
"I'd love to say I'll be back, but I can't see myself sleeping only one or two hours a day. That's a different breed of rider," said Juarez.
To catch all of the Cyclingnews coverage of the 2006 edition of the Race Across America, click here.