Pa. plans Rouzerville welcome for cyclists

June 21, 2003|by RICHARD F. BELISLE

More than 70 bicyclists from around the world will be whizzing past a barbecue pit in front of a Rouzerville, Pa., restaurant Sunday and Monday on their way from San Diego to Atlantic City in the 21st running of the Race Across America.

The bikers will pedal coast-to-coast for 2,922 miles.

Blondie's Outback restaurant has been recruited as one of 54 checkpoints the racers will pass through on their way east through Washington and Franklin counties.

The Rouzerville checkpoint is No. 50 along the route. Number 49 is in Hancock, said Sarah Jane Miller, who with James Blake will be monitoring the bikers as they pass by the barbecue pit. Their job is to report the bikers' times to raced headquarters. Both are from Ithaca, N.Y.


Bob Backer, owner of Blondie's Outback, a restaurant and lounge at 11737 Old Route 16, said he hopes to get Rouzerville residents out Sunday beginning at 2 p.m. on to cheer the riders on as they pass by his barbecue pit.

"I'll be giving out free hot dogs to the people who come," he said.

Already lined up are members of the local Ruritan Club and Little League.

"It's going to be a Rouzerville salute," he said.

The race has been an annual event since 1982. It's rated as one of the toughest endurance races in the world, Miller said.

It is run by solo riders and teams who cycle in relays.

"The clock never stops," Miller said.

The goal is to cover about 3,000 miles in 10 days.

Solo riders rack up as many as 300 miles a day, teams up to 500 miles. Solo riders take sleep breaks. The relay teams switch riders. Teams have from two to eight riders, Miller said.

The solo riders began their race Sunday. The teams started out Monday.

Each racer is followed by a van with flashing lights for safety and to provide support such as food, navigation and a place to rest. Many racers are followed by support crews in Motor homes.

Some have their own teams of mechanics, Blake said.

"When a bicycle breaks down the rider is given a spare to keep going," he said.

Some racers bring along their own nurse or physician, Miller said.

Racers have to follow the same rules of the road as motorists, Miller said.

This year marked the first time there was a fatality in the race, Miller said.

Brett Malin, 30, of Vail, Colo., an expert road racer, was killed Wednesday in an accident involving a tractor-trailer in the New Mexico leg of the race, she said.

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