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by Chris Milliman
June 29, Atlantic City
It seems an odd thing to dawn on you during a bike race, but with two days left to go in the 2005 Insight Race Across America Chris MacDonald realized he had to race his bike if he wanted to hold onto second place.
Having discovered early in the race that he tended to ride faster and rest more than his immediate rivals, MacDonald knew that he was responding to the challenge in a unique way. A special strategy became necessary in Missouri, where the heat started turning from dry to humid, and his team started to question whether or not he would finish.
MacDonald opted for a strategy of sleeping during the hottest parts of the day, and he ended up sleeping more than his next nearest rival, Italy's Fabio Biasiolo. Biasiolo used the opportunity to catch and pass MacDonald, putting the 32-year-old American under pressure to race hard.
In a race in which riders are sometimes separated by an entire time zone, two riders passing each other back and forth creates an unusual, and sometimes volatile, situation. MacDonald's strategy went out the window and he was forced out of midday break when his crew reported Biasiolo had just sped past. It was game on.
"We had a unique thing going on," said MacDonald. "We were racing each other and right until the last day we could even see each other. He's a good bike racer and you could feel that. I expected he was down for the count several times."
After having trained specifically for sections of the course using the advanced CompuTrainer technology, MacDonald was well prepared for everything the topography threw at him.
The pressure was intense, and finally MacDonald broke Biasiolo during the penultimate day, putting two hours into the Italian going through the Apalachian mountains. The margin bulged to over six hours by the time MacDonald crossed the finish in 10 days, 2 hours, 1 minute.
MacDonald's second-place marks a tremendous accomplishment for the first-time RAAM rider, and like so many RAAM rookies, you could see the bug working its way into him. Prior to the race he was adamant that this would be a 'once in a lifetime' experience. At the finish he had progressed to hedging about his intentions to return. Should he be back, MacDonald admitted that the lessons learned about the event's unique style of racing could be key to moving up that final, significant, spot on the finishing podium.