Start at the Oceanside Pier. Stop in 3000 Miles.

Most of us onlookers conquered the mountain the easy way — by car — and had gathered for the big moment, trying at the same time to exploit the 10,857-foot elevation for an alpine vista. It was early afternoon on June 20, 2011, and there at the summit of Wolf Creek Pass, in southern Colorado’s San Juan Mountains, the air was cool but not cold and snowy, as morning weather reports out of Denver had suggested it might be. “There he comes,” someone shouted, “that speck bobbing up and down on the side of the road.” We squinted, looking hard down the grade and into the mountain shadows. Before long, we verified that the speck was Wei Sun pumping the pedals that were bringing him toward us. Loud cheers and encouragement went up when he passed by on his bike and headed downhill. He had crossed the Continental Divide, on the way from Oceanside to a finish line in Annapolis, Maryland. It was TeamViaSat’s third day of competition in the 30th annual Race Across America. For each of the past six years, the ViaSat Corporation, a Carlsbad company that produces satellite equipment, has fielded an eight-man team to compete in the race’s corporate division.

This year, from among eight team members, five from San Diego County, the ride to the top of the pass fell randomly on Sun, who is 42 and lives in Carmel Mountain Ranch. It was both an honor and a daunting task, especially given his background. In 2005, after being diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, he changed his diet, quit smoking, and began riding a bike. He has been training to race for the past two years.

“It was the first time in my life that I rode a bike at 10,000 feet,” he later told me. “Next time, I will be more respectful of what that can do to the body.”

 Joab Noda and Jeff Johnstone

Joab Noda and Jeff Johnstone

Race Across America is best known for its solo competition. In 1986, Fallbrook’s Pete Penseyres set a world solo record in the race that has yet to be broken. Penseyres rode 3107 miles, coast to coast, in eight days, nine hours, and 47 minutes, averaging 15.4 miles per hour. The solo performers flabbergast sedentary folk, but the race’s eight-man teams also boast mind-boggling achievements. Because they take turns riding, each of the eight must sprint almost every time they take the road. This can raise a team’s average speed to over 20 miles per hour. But to reach these averages, teams must be organized into well-oiled machines.

TeamViaSat had divided itself into four subteams of two cyclists who alternated riding short sprints over five-hour shifts. After one pair finished, they were off-bike until the three other pairs finished their shifts, 15 hours later. Each pair of riders took one shift every 20 hours, guaranteeing that every ViaSat rider would get some nighttime duty. Once the eight-man race started on June 18, there was a ViaSat cyclist riding at all hours of the day, until the team crossed the finish line.

The physical demands of the race were hardly Wei Sun’s only challenge. Since last December, when he started lining up uniforms and additional sponsors for his team, he’d acted as the team’s informal organizer. Besides cyclists, Sun recruited nine other persons to serve as the team’s crew; their various roles would include protecting riders on the road and facilitating numerous transfers of the ViaSat flag from one to another. Sun’s job in supply management for ViaSat helped him to work through the company’s budgeting process to procure entrance fees to compete. All the while, he joined other prospective racers on training outings, often cycling up to 250 miles a week on Carlsbad’s hilly roads and the slopes of Soledad and Palomar mountains.

On April 2, each rider participated in time trials established by team members from previous years. Time trials are an event in which cyclists race against the clock. In this case, the intent was to make sure the 2011 team could maintain adequate speeds over a 3000-mile ordeal. All the riders passed the time trials, which were held on the east grade of Palomar Mountain. Sun was now comfortable that the team had eight strong riders. But a month later, the only rider who had previous experience competing in the race left the company.

“That was a helluva curve ball,” I said to Sun.

“If that weren’t enough,” he says, “a second rider left us a week later. Suddenly, Sun was looking for two new riders, and each of them had to work for ViaSat, a requirement the team had set for itself in 2011. He found them quickly, recruiting two strong riders who were willing to begin training for the race immediately. One of them was Andrew Cawood, from ViaSat’s office in Duluth, Georgia.

The headaches weren’t over. When the team’s uniforms arrived, “the shorts ended up being far more transparent at that part of the body where perhaps you want to be more discreet,” said Sun, laughing. “The kit supplier could have decided not to cooperate, but they stood by their service.” The team received replacement shorts the week before the race.

As the race approached, Sun confessed, “I would sometimes wake up in the middle of the night wondering, What in the hell am I doing? This is crazy. I remember one race veteran saying that, though our training would prepare us physically, most of the battle would be a mind game.”

Then came the big day — and a final pre-race emergency. On Andrew Cawood’s bike, “the bracket that held the rear derailer had broken off,” said Sun. “It was a custom bike that he’d brought from Georgia. It had such a unique design that no local bike shops had any spares available. The problem would not have ended our race, because by about 10:00 a.m., we were ready to buy a new bike if we had to. In the end, Performance Bike in Oceanside Bike had a mechanic who fixed the broken bracket. And it lasted all the way to Annapolis.”

By now, Sun is already helping to plan ViaSat’s entrance into the 2012 Race Across America, although he and five of his 2011 teammates have decided not to ride. Several weeks ago, ViaSat held new time trials. The goal for next year is to recruit the fastest riders.

∗ ∗ ∗

Two nights before this year’s race, at their home in Bonsall, cyclist Rich Walsh, 47, and his wife Vicki hosted a party for all of ViaSat’s riders and crew members. Teammate Joab Noda, who works for the company in Washington DC, catered the event with several dishes from his native Spain.

Walsh, a systems analyst “representing the geeks” at ViaSat, and Eric Cross, from the company’s Georgia office, would ride the first full shift. Before day one was finished, this subteam — there were four — would negotiate one of the thorniest problems ViaSat faced throughout the race.

Fuel for cyclists

Fuel for cyclists

Vicki Walsh had packed a prodigious number of pounds of food into iced containers and sent them along with the pair in their rider, or “leapfrog,” vehicle. ViaSat had rented five four-wheel-drive Suburbans and a similar Ford Expedition, which trailed riders as a “follow vehicle.” Riding shotgun, a navigator kept an eye on the route map and made sure the rider stayed on course. For protection from traffic, the follow vehicle tried to stay as close to the rider as possible, which race rules limited to 50 feet. A second vehicle brought along Jaspreet Dosanjh, a videographer whose camera was ubiquitous throughout the race, blogger Whitney Goodman, now working for San Diego’s Hall of Champions, and myself. We media hangers-on were tasked with chronicling the race for posterity. I accompanied the ViaSat team as far as eastern Colorado.

Follow vehicle stays close to Eric Cross to protect him from traffic

Follow vehicle stays close to Eric Cross to protect him from traffic

Additionally, each rider pair was assigned a Suburban and a driver to facilitate a relay race–style of making rider exchanges every 15 minutes, give or take. After an exchange, the cyclist who had finished a turn riding — “pull” in cycling-speak — would jump in the car, and its driver would ferry him past the new cyclist now on the road. The driver would then find a good place on the side of the road for completing the next exchange. Race rules required that support vehicles pull at least five feet off the road when stopping. They also required the partner waiting to take over the riding not to take off until the back wheel of the bike approaching from behind passed the front wheel of the next rider’s bike. (Got that?) Racers failing to observe this and other rules could prompt race officials patrolling the course to impose a penalty that would cause the team to take time off the course later in the race.

ViaSat riders were never penalized, and for that achievement, the team can largely thank crew chief Barrie Adsett, a New Zealander, veteran marathoner, and endurance-competition organizer who lives in Mission Beach. Adsett admits that he came within a hair of getting ViaSat in trouble. As he was driving the follow vehicle behind Walsh and Cross, a race official in Valley Center flagged him over.

“In the first section of the race,” Adsett said, “all the way to Borrego Springs, you were not allowed to ‘close-follow.’” Because of heavy traffic, officials wanted all race vehicles to maintain highway speeds. But by doing so, the cars would soon pass their riders and not be able to protect them. Wanting to keep Walsh and Cross in sight, he started letting them go 100–200 yards ahead before catching up, pulling off to the side of the road, and then repeating. The tactic could have worked, following the rule to the letter, were it always possible to find a place to pull off immediately upon reaching the rider. But some roadside sites made pulling off unsafe. To solve the problem, Adsett said he continued to slowly drive behind the rider, in effect close-following again, until he found a safe place to pull off.

Adsett said, “The race official observed this, and, when he pulled me over and I explained what I was doing, he said with a smile, ‘That’s taking a very liberal approach to the rule.’” But Adsett was given a warning instead of a penalty. The official advised that, to maintain highway speed, Adsett had to stay much farther behind the rider than 200 yards; he was to pull off the road either before reaching the rider or after passing him, then wait to repeat.

This routine may have caused Adsett to lose his rider, Eric Cross, at Christmas Tree Circle outside of Borrego Springs. With Adsett hanging back, Cross entered the circle, which has five roads leading away from its center lawn. Some observers, as they stood around watching riders passing through, were pointing down the wrong street. Cross, a strong rider, was suddenly off course and riding fast. When Adsett came along the correct route, he drove furiously, trying to catch up to his rider. It soon became clear that Cross was not ahead.

Eventually, Cross was found and brought back by the leapfrog car. Meanwhile, his partner, Rich Walsh, started riding at the point where the team went off course. Although it wasn’t yet his turn to ride, Walsh said, “I had just finished the ‘Glass Elevator,’ a nice long descent coming down the east side of the mountains, so I was well rested. After I took off, though, I tried to stay at a maintainable pace. I wasn’t pushing hard, because I had no idea how far I would be going. And I didn’t know the route. You always look at the map to know where your turns are for the next five miles, but I didn’t get that chance. The good news was that there were a lot of people on the road.”

∗ ∗ ∗

The evening of that first race day, and a few miles before Brawley, Wei Sun and his partner Jeff Johnstone started their first shift, taking over from Walsh and Cross. By now, the racecourse was on Highway 78, at a point just west of Blythe. The ride to Blythe, which had started at 8:00 p.m. and lasted until 1:00 in the morning, “was the longest five hours I’ve ever experienced,” says Sun. “The shift wasn’t the hardest, but being out on the first night, we gave it all we had. The last hour, I had severe cramps in my legs, because it was dry, it was hot, and even though we had a good tailwind, we pedaled very hard. And at that time, I’d had only half of my liquids in the form of recovery drinks. The other half was water, and it wasn’t enough [to help with the cramps].”

The media team interviews and records 
video of competitors during the race

The media team interviews and records video of competitors during the race

Meanwhile, in the media car, Dosanj, Goodman, and I traversed the same course. We almost ran out of gas on the dark desert highway. Once in Blythe, we met Chuck Pateros, an engineer in ViaSat’s patent office and a veteran of the race. He’d come along to help riders and crew adapt to new rules for 2011, and to herd us media cats. Pateros was the team’s greatest cheerleader, praising and encouraging riders to “crush the hills” whenever his frenetic jaunts back and forth along the racecourse allowed. He explained to me his take on the eight-man-team version of Race Across America. “It’s like a ball of energy, with lots of moving parts, moving steadily across the country.”

At the motel, we met up with riders Cawood and Noda, preparing for their shift, which was scheduled to start at 1:00 Sunday morning. By then, the media crew was asleep. At dawn we hurried to catch up with the next subteam, which had taken up the baton.

∗ ∗ ∗

Doug Poorman has been staging his own triathlon over the past 11 years. “I call it ‘The Poor Man’s,’” says Poorman, who is a project manager at ViaSat. “It’s the fitness event for the physically prepared and the fiscally challenged. On the weekend after September 11, we do 25 miles on road bikes to North Torrey Pines, a five-and-a-half-mile run on the beach, and a two-mile swim. We then come back the same way and have a barbeque at my house [in Rancho Penasquitos], all for no entry fee.”

At the U.S. Air Force Academy in the 1970s, Poorman competed in swimming. And tennis has always been “a wannabe sport for me,” he says. But he’d never participated in Race Across America, even though TeamViaSat wanted him. He and his wife Dede “always decided that going on vacation with a bunch of guys was not as much fun as going with the family. But suddenly there was an opening. They needed someone to fill in [just] weeks before the event. Still, Dede and I were hesitant.”

Then they learned that ViaSat’s 2011 effort would be dedicated to Austin Bice, an SDSU student who’d died accidentally earlier in the year in Madrid, Spain. Larry Bice, Austin’s father, was a part of the team at its inception six years ago and has competed several times since. He also has long been Doug Poorman’s friend and colleague at ViaSat. “When we learned about the dedication,” Poorman tells me, “participating in this year’s race made all the sense in the world.”

The start of the race in Oceanside

The start of the race in Oceanside

From the Oceanside Pier on June 18, Poorman and partner Dave Casterton pulled away from the starting line at a few minutes past 2:00 p.m. The first 16 miles, most on the San Luis Rey Bike Path, which starts about a mile north of the pier, were part of a parade for the local community. The race would be timed from College Boulevard at the San Luis Rey River — that’s where Poorman and Casterton started riding hard. The racecourse, from start to finish, had been designed to avoid freeways and superhighways. Once past College, it wound along rural residential and mountain roads well to the north of a heavily traveled portion of Highway 78, from Oceanside to Escondido. Highway 78 wouldn’t be picked up again until its intersection with Borrego Springs Road, southeast of Borrego Springs.

Poorman and Casterton wouldn’t get their first five-hour shift until we were well into Arizona. By that time, I had jumped in the follow vehicle behind the navigator, who, route book in hand, can call out directions through a loudspeaker on top of the car should there be hazards or a coming turn in the course that are difficult to see.

We motored along behind a steadily climbing Poorman. He was riding Highway 89 in southwest Arizona, headed up one of the switchbacks of Yarnell Grade on the way to Prescott. The race guide book said that, although not reaching the course’s highest elevations, the grade was the steepest climb of the trip. As we watched, Schaefer and Moore agreed that Poorman may have been the strongest of ViaSat’s riders. The rhythm of his pedaling looked smooth and forceful.

After the trip, Poorman told me, “You’ve got to love the hills.”

∗ ∗ ∗

Dave Casterton, at 28, is 26 years younger than Poorman, making the span of their ages the greatest among the four ViaSat rider pairs. Casterton, who lives in Encinitas, is an electrical engineer at ViaSat and is simultaneously working toward a master’s degree in neuroscience at UCLA. He is soft-spoken and likes music genres, including heavy metal, that he was sure Poorman would not. “Doug and I never agreed on musical selections for the follow vehicle to blare out of its speakers,” he says. “But I assumed we did have different tastes, so I brought along an iPod with the obnoxious music.”

“How was it teaming with Poorman in the race?” I ask.

“I can think of only one exchange where something went wrong,” says Casterton. “I was in the car, looking at our times, so I hadn’t even pulled my bike off the back when Doug went flying by. Whoops. We scrambled and ended up driving ahead to try it a second time.

“The race is interesting in that, when off the bike, you’re stuck in a car with two other people. It’s a very intense situation. You’re thrown together with people you may or may not know. When you’re riding, you’re dependent on them for your health. You can get injured out there. If that Suburban behind the rider messes up, they could plow right over you.”

About his time with Casterton, Doug Poorman had this to say: “I think he had fun being with me, because he could see this old guy and how he did things. But he had more race experience than I did. He was a crew member twice before. I was always listening to David for instructions on how to do things. He was very helpful.”

Casterton tells me that his climb up Yarnell Grade, which I watched from the follow car, was drudgery. “It must be an awful psychological barrier,” I say, “looking uphill and seeing how far it is to the next crest.”

“Yes,” he admits, “but not looking at how far you have to go helps mentally to give as much effort as you can at that instant.” Both partners kept their heads down when chugging up the hills. “Once,” says Casterton, “Doug had his head down and ran into the back of a parked car.”

“It wasn’t too bad,” Poorman says. “I rolled into one of the other team’s support vehicles on the hill. I was probably going 10 or 11 miles per hour. They were parked not exactly as far off the road as they should have been. It was a sideswipe, and my handlebars got caught up in the sliding door of their van. I came to an abrupt stop but then kept going.”

Casterton says, “[I don’t] consider myself much of a climber. Yarnell came in our first full shift. We had already sprinted on flatland for two hours, and your adrenaline’s going. The first day, it’s almost impossible to limit your effort, with all the excitement going on. You go as hard as you can.”

∗ ∗ ∗

The next day, on their second shift, Sun and Johnstone rode through the Navajo Nation in northeast Arizona. Johnstone, a 44-year-old ViaSat engineer living in Del Mar, took the first turn riding. In a diary he started on the trip, Johnstone recorded the adventure that followed.

He was coming north from Flagstaff toward Tuba City, Arizona, and prospects looked good — “a nice descent of 3000 feet over 40 miles. I started on the time-trial bike and took off. Did notice the wind was blowing, but was too pumped to register the danger. As soon as I cleared the trees, at 40 miles per hour, a vicious crosswind buffeted me. At one point I found myself airborne. I had started just to the right of the rumble strip, got hit by a gust and landed beside the gravel on the pavement, went off the pavement onto the gravel, held on for dear life and sent up a prayer. I was able to gently guide my bike back onto the pavement…I just hung on and fought the wind.”

Johnstone switched to his road bike. He convinced Sun to do the same. Later, I asked him, “What’s the difference?”

A time-trial bike “is a specific design of bike that is very aerodynamic,” he said. “It’s efficient for going straight and fast. It’s like a blade in the wind, but that makes it terrible in a crosswind. The frame is so much wider than a road bike’s, and the wheels and the frame are integrated, so there are no gaps between them. That presents an almost continuous sail into the wind, and a crosswind can grab the bike and push you sideways.”

As soon as Johnstone’s wild ride ended, I joined him and Sun and tagged along in their leapfrog car. As we drove, there were wide mesas in the distance that were surprisingly flat on top, and rocks balanced on each other as if someone had piled them up. Hills across the plateaus looked like rumpled sheets; the blowing dust had turned them white.

Meanwhile, as each pull finished, Johnstone and Sun were getting in and out of the car. Each would give me an account of his latest adventure. Johnstone reported that a metal shard had gone through his front tire and that he lost three minutes replacing it. But for the most part, it was the wind. Neither rider could get the wind and the sand it was kicking up out of their minds. Often, standing outside the car, I felt the brunt of it, too. If I turned thus and so, my face would take a blast of sand.

“The worst part is when cars, and especially trucks, pass me by,” Sun said. “They kick up sand, the wind blows it up, and I ride right into it.” According to Johnstone, “We had great tailwinds last night. Now the gods are getting even. I think this wind is an exfoliation technique the Navajos invented.”

Then a lighter moment. A man drove up and parked behind us as we stood waiting for the completion of a rider exchange. He got out of his white pickup and approached Sun, who stood hovering over the bike, preparing for his pull. “May I have your autograph?” the man asked, as he handed Sun a pen and paper. Sun fought the flimsy paper to put his signature on it. A minute later, Johnstone appeared and the famous cyclist Wei Sun took over the reins.

At the end of their shift that evening, our riders motored on to Durango, Colorado, where they stayed the night. The next day was to bring Wolf Creek Pass, the Continental Divide. Two other riders would do much of the heavy lifting, taking ViaSat close to the summit before turning the coup de grâce over to Sun.

∗ ∗ ∗

The high points of the trip for David Casterton were his rides through southern Utah and southwestern Colorado. “There was gorgeous scenery,” he says. “Our shift started in early morning, so we were out there at sunrise, going through the hills, and it was beautiful, absolutely a wonderful place to ride. The last two years, I crewed, and it was exhausting. My impression was that riding the course was going to be painful. But, somewhere in Utah and Colorado, I really started to enjoy the race. It was uphill but more gradual than Yarnell.”

“When you’re riding as hard as you can,” I ask, “how can you enjoy the scenery?”

“You’re in the car every 15 minutes,” says Casterton, “and you can look around, take a few pictures, and absorb your surroundings. I don’t think I slept the first few days of the race, although I could rest in between pulls and when we were off. Sleeplessness in general was a challenge for the whole team.”

Casterton says he had better than his usual luck with injuries. “I’ve been riding seriously for about three years, learning all the ways to hurt myself, mostly by not stretching this or that. Once into the race this year, I had no pain. Maybe you just bury it in the mind.”

∗ ∗ ∗

Shortly after daybreak the next morning, Monday, I hopped in the car that was leapfrogging for Rich Walsh and Eric Cross. Walsh was nervous — “jacked up,” he said, until he knew how he was going to perform. “The legs are feeling a little dodgy,” he said. “It might take a couple of pulls to warm them up.” The pair had high hopes that, that afternoon, they’d be the team to ride over the summit.

It had been cold overnight and the terrain had changed to lush grasses sprinkled with yellow wildflowers. Red farmhouses sat in the meadows on either side of the road. Mist hung in ravines. Before long, pines appeared on the sides of the hills and, higher up, snow. The climbing was gradual, though a steep climb sometimes preceded a short downhill run.

Walsh suggested that he and his partner start shortening their pulls on the steeper climbs. For the downhills, the riders put on vests to keep warm. At speeds higher than 35 miles per hour, they could get no more torque by shifting gears. “I know I’ve hit 50 miles an hour,” said Walsh. “We’ve really had easy pulls so far. Still, this is far different than training. There’s an excitement now that I’m really starting to feel. But we will both do hard pulls later today.”

A sign told us that Durango was 20 miles away. Whenever a plateau came, the riders lengthened the pulls to four and five miles. Cross kept getting text messages from his wife, who from their home in Georgia had been watching data from the time stations. Her latest message said, “I’m so frustrated you aren’t farther ahead.” Using Google Latitude, she also could see her husband’s current position. “Take two Tums now,” she later texted him about his upset stomach, “so you can handle Wolf Creek Pass.”

A highway work crew appeared at the foot of the final six miles, the steepest part of the climb. “Give me the monster,” one of the riders shouted, as we passed through the construction. Walsh did the first 1.6-mile pull and afterward threw himself into the back seat of the car, puffing hard. But Walsh and Cross’s shift was coming to a close.

∗ ∗ ∗

Johnstone later told me that his subteam could have planned the attack on Wolf Creek better. As high in the air as they were, their pulls should have been a mile apiece. Instead, Wei Sun started two miles from the summit after taking over from Walsh and Cross. At the top, says Sun, “I was gasping for air.” Nevertheless, Chuck Pateros was there to celebrate his arrival with jubilant shouts.

Johnstone took over a short way down the other side. “I did a long pull then to let Wei recover. But the downhill wasn’t as steep as I’d hoped. I had to pedal hard to break 30 miles an hour. It wasn’t like in training, when we were going down Torrey Pines or Soledad or Palomar. There was a headwind, too, so the wind was standing you up as you were going down.” After two troughs ahead came two more summits; the first 9413 feet, the second 9941.

Before long, TeamViaSat was on a roll. “Coming down the long back side of Colorado was phenomenal,” says Dave Casterton. “We were going largely downhill, of course, and then we had occasional tailwinds. We were flying, and it felt great on the bike. And the terrain was padding our numbers. I think in that area we were averaging 28 miles per hour, with Doug [Poorman] once hitting a little over 52 miles per hour.” (For averages, the riders were able to check online reports from time stations along the course, while Garmins they wore on their arms gave them current speeds.)

Then the land leveled. According to Sun, “The highlight of the race was going through Kansas. We were blessed with a peak of tailwinds, so, very quickly [and] with little effort, we were able to get up to 26 miles per hour and, by pedaling a little harder, we reached upwards of 32 and even as high as 35 miles an hour. Flat land with zephyrs made for the perfect ride.” Messages the team was then receiving from back home, said Casterton, indicated that riders who had completed the race in previous years “were offended at how fast we were going.”

Crossing the Mississippi River

Crossing the Mississippi River

At the Mississippi River, a little north of St. Louis, the team ran into construction projects that made staying on course difficult. Johnstone injured his elbow as his leapfrog car started to leave before he’d settled himself squarely in the back seat. Sleep deprivation was starting to take its toll on some riders. But the picturesque farmlands and rolling hills of southern Illinois, Indiana, and Ohio were soothing.

“Seeing fireflies a few times when we were doing shift changes was special,” Poorman says. It was easy to be captivated, too, by the charm of small towns, although the inner street mazes were hazardous to navigators. “Ohio especially was a challenge,” Sun says, “because, up to that point, it had always been ‘Go straight’ for 60 miles before one slight left turn and then straight again for another 50 miles. When our shift took over in Oxford, it was tough to navigate the many turns through town.”

In West Virginia, Sun’s leapfrog car got lost, and he was left on the road for a 20-mile stretch. Other riders were enjoying the Appalachian Mountains. “There were great bird sounds there,” says Rich Walsh, “birds I’d never heard before.” But Casterton thinks these mountains had the most difficult climbs of the trip, as he seemed constantly to ride up, down, and up again.

“There was a shift in West Virginia,” says Doug Poorman, who flew Air Force fighter planes between 1979 and 1987, “going up a particularly long climb after some rollers, when I was at the bottom of the hill and the follow vehicle started blaring out the Top Gun theme song. Goosebumps came out on me, and I just started spinning up the hill. It was really fun.”

At the end of their final shift in Pennsylvania, Sun said he and Johnstone drove to visit the Gettysburg Memorial 50 miles away, “our only sightseeing excursion throughout the whole adventure.” “At six in the morning,” says Johnstone, “the scene was very eerie.”

It was Poorman who crossed the finish line for ViaSat in Annapolis. He had had several flat tires earlier in the race. “Fortunately,” he says, “every time I had a flat tire, the bike was going back in the rack. The first time I got a flat when it wasn’t like that was two-tenths of a mile from the timed finish. I rode across the finish line on a rear flat.”

On Friday, June 24, TeamViaSat came in first place in Race Across America’s corporate division — and third among all eight-man teams. For the timed portion of the race, the team had ridden 2989 miles in five days, 19 hours, and eight minutes. As soon as possible after the race, all the riders went to an Annapolis restaurant to eat the locally renowned blue crab. And they drank beer.

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