Seven local cyclists race across America as team
by Staff Writer
It was a long six days for Sarah Matchett and seven of her friends.
Starting in Oceanside, Calif., the Davidson resident and seven teammates started a high-pressure, speed-obsessed cross-country road trip that’s like no other.
Matchett, a member of the Cool Breeze Race for Heroes cycling team, and seven teammates competed in the Race Across America in June, completing the journey in six days, four hours and 59 minutes.
The team, which raised more than $6,000 for Wounded Warriors, finally came to a stop in Annapolis Md., after crossing 12 states, climbing more than 170,000 feet of elevation and biking 3,000 miles.
Comprised of five women and three men, the members of the Cool Breeze team are tri-athletes at Cool Breeze Cyclery, in Mooresville. They are: Karen and Lee Wandel and Franci Pirkle, of Cornelius; Kris Long and Martin Turner, of Huntersville; and Leigh-Ann Mueller, Kathy Goody and Matchett, of Davidson.
“We were all at Myrtle Beach together for a post-season party type of thing, and we were all talking about our bucket list,” Matchett said. “This came up as something that was on our bucket list.”
Just like that, Matchett said, a team was born for the Race Across America.
“One moment you’re talking about a bucket list, and six months later, we’ve got a team,” she said.
The team, led by coach Randy Cotran, began a strict training regimen in January for the race, which is 822 miles longer than the Tour de France. Unlike the Tour de France, where the clock stops after each stage, the clock for the Race Across American runs until the team crosses the finish line.
“We would train at one in the morning, two in the morning,” Matchett said. “With an eight-person team, it’s a relay. We also did a 24-hour practice that took us about 400 miles up into the mountains and that area.”
The Cool Breeze team had two vans, carrying four cyclists each. While one van followed the cyclist on the road, the other would travel about 200 miles ahead to give team members a chance to sleep, eat and shower.
“The goal was to have each van take turns riding for about eight hours,” Matchett said.
Team Cool Breeze finished fourth in the 13-team field, which included teams from Italy, Germany and Great Britain.
But it didn’t come without some adversity.
“We had one instance where our beloved van driver drove a little too close to a low hanging branch and a tree kind of fell on top of the roof,” Matchett said. “We were also coming out of Arizona one night and a 40-mile-per-hour tailwind blew a bike off the back of our van.”
Matchett’s sister, Emily, who served as the crew chief, said the team suffered only three flat tires, an extremely low number for a 3,000-mile race.
“There were some near misses where riders almost got hit by cars, but we all got through OK,” said Emily Matchett, also of Davidson. “There was a big RV accident that caused our riders to get stuck in a traffic jam, but in terms of our team, we were pretty safe.”
The team passed through 55 checkpoints, roughly 60 or 80 miles apart, calling in their time to race officials at each one.
Though the race went according to plan, Sarah Machett said the teammates shared some tense moments.
“There’s a ton of pressure on everyone,” Sarah Matchett said. “Unfortunately, when riders get both mentally and physically tired, they start to unload a little bit on the people they can trust. We had a lot of those moments.
“There were definitely some times when we were at each other’s throats.”
Although it caused some strain on team members, the friends grew closer together, their efforts proved worthwhile when they crossed the finish line.
“One of the most exciting things to come out of this was to get to work together as a team,” Sarah Matchett said. “We were all a team and nothing was getting in our way. At the end of the day, it was all fine.”