By ROGER AMSDEN, for THE LACONIA DAILY SUN
HOLDERNESS — Fresh from becoming the world champions for mixed tandem bicyclists in the 24 Hour World Time Trial Championships in Borrego Springs, Cailfornia, John Jurczynski and Ann Rasmussen have set their sights on next summer's 3,089-mile Race Across America.
Jurczynski, manager of the Rockywold-Deephaven Camps on Squam Lake, and Rasmussen, a guidance counselor at Plymouth Regional High School, broke the tandem course record by 117 miles in the 6-12-24 Hour World Championships and won the overall tandem division with 433.2 miles on Nov. 4 and 5.
"Granted, there were only four tandems in the 24-hour race, but we managed to finish more than 100 miles ahead of the second-place tandem. We estimate that we finished the first 12 hours with about 240 miles, a number equal to the Ultra Marathon Cycling Association's mixed tandem record," said Jurczynski.
He said that the 24-hour race, run slightly east of San Diego, started at 6 p.m., meaning that the first 12 hours were completed at night. "Given that my nighttime vision is less than perfect, we stayed clear of the road's edge, avoided a crash in the first mile and were very pleased with our nighttime mileage. We calculated that if we could maintain or go even a mile or two per hour slower than our nighttime pace, we had a shot at the UMCA mixed tandem 24-hour record of 454 miles."
But the second 12 hours turned out to be more about survival than racing. He said that at this time of year, he and Rasmussen's training is limited due to their work schedules, no local group rides and less daylight. In addition, for over a month, training temperatures have been cool to cold.
"The temperature rose quickly from the mid-50s to about 90 degrees for most of the afternoon. The heat, and probably undertraining, took its toll on us to the point that it became hard to put down enough calories and stay hydrated enough to perform as well as we were earlier. Ann and I complement each other very well on the tandem. For example, she is a more natural hill climber and I am better on the flats and rolling hills; Ann generally performs better in cooler temperatures and I do better in the heat. Due to the 90-degree temperatures, Ann suffered more at the end of this event, but amazingly stuck it out to squeeze in the extra mileage needed to crack 430 miles,'' said Jurczynski.
He said that at the finish Rasmussen felt very light headed and was worried that she might pass out at the awards ceremony, which they skipped. But he said they're grateful for the opportunity to compete alongside some world class endurance athletes at the event, including four 24-hour cycling world record holders. Seana Hogan, six-time Race Across America winner, set the woman's course record at the event and Christoph Strasser, three-time RAAM winner and RAAM record holder, smashed the mens' solo course record.
Jurczynski and Rasmussen, a former top flight cross-country skier and Olympic team alternate, have been doing tandem bicycling for two years now and by the time the year is over will have logged over 14,000 miles on the road. They practice two to three hours a day this time of year, as well as on weekends. Last year they took part in the Paris-Brest-Paris race and finished 69th in a field of 6,000. In April of this year, they took part in the Race Across Italy, finishing 20th and becoming the first tandem team to ever complete the race.
If their training and racing continues to go well, they hope to give Race Across America a try next year. The race starts on June 13 in Riverside, California, and ends in Annapolis, Maryland.
It will not be a new experience for Jurczynski, who 10 years ago, at the age of 50, won his age group in the Race Across America, riding some 3,000 miles in 11 days, 22 hours, and 14 minutes and raised over $35,000 for diabetes research.
Later that year he and Mike "Mad Dog" Gallagher set a new stationary cycling world record of 113 hours, since broken, at the Laconia Athletic and Swim Club as a fundraiser for the Lakes Region Children's Auction.
Jurczynski said only nine tandems have ever completed RAAM in the event's 35-year history. The mixed tandem RAAM record (for the 18 to 49 age category) of 10 days, 22 hours and 40 minutes was set in 1990.
"Being only the tenth tandem to ever complete solo RAAM would be a huge accomplishment for us, especially given our advanced ages. I will turn 60 next year and Ann will be over 50," he said.
Once plans are firmed up, he and Rasmussen will choose a charity which will benefit from their cross country bicycle ride.
John Jurczynski and Ann Rasmussen became world champions for mixed tandem bicyclists in the 24 Hour World Time Trial Championships in Borrego Springs, Cailfornia, earlier this month. (Courtesy photos)