Rim Country Part Of Winning Racers' Path

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The Coast to Coast Against Cancer cycling team of Kevin Wallace and Jeff Rushton held an almost three-hour lead over other two-person teams when the pair peddled through the Rim country June 22.

Of the 37 entries in the Race Across America (RAAM), including the solo riders who had a one-day head start, the two were in 25th place. Ahead of Wallace and Rushton were seven 4-person teams and 16 solos.

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During a stop in Payson, Coast to Coast Against Cancer cycling team member Ben Wallace donned his uniform to prepare for the next leg of the Race Across America.

At the finish line in Atlantic City, NJ, Wallace and Rushton finished first among the two-person male teams covering 2,958.5 miles in about 6-1/2 days.

About 2,000 miles from the finish, in Kansas, the team was peddling at a race record 17.64 mph.

The race, which is the longest endurance annual cycling event in the world, began for the 2- and 4-person teams at 2 p.m. June 21 on the San Diego, Calif. waterfront

The solo riders began the race at 7 a.m. June 20 also in San Diego.

All teams were bound for the finish line on the famous Boardwalk at Kennedy Plaza in Atlantic City.

During the entire race, the two were escorted by a motor home, a van and a support crew that included Dr. Patrick Hewitt and his brother Jack Hewitt.

Dr. Hewitt's team responsibilities included looking after the physical well being of the two racers.

His biggest concern, he said, was fatigue, "I do whatever needs to be done to keep them riding -- massages, nutrition and medical care."

In preparing for the RAAM, Dr. Hewitt used power meters and heart rate zone training to push the aerobic capacity of the two racers. Their body composition was measured every two weeks and their diets were changed to balance fat, protein and carbohydrates. The pair also did core strength training to strengthen their neck, lower back and abs.

During the race, the doctor also had to treat two other banes of long distance cyclists -- sleep deprivation and saddle sores.

Jack Hewitt worked on the team as a jack-of-all-trades driving the van, servicing the cycles and preparing meals when needed.

In Payson, Wallace took a brief rest stop inside the van while waiting for Rushton to catch up.

The team goal, he said at the time, was to reach Atlantic City in less than seven days.

Wallace, of Mississauga, Ontario, has been a Canadian business owner the past 17 years.

He'd never competed in the RAMM but was 24th in the 2000 Eco-Challenge held in the jungles of Borneo and raced across Canada in nine days.

"Endurance racing is what my lifestyle has evolved to as being a priority," he said. "The idea of being challenged and to learn what my limits are attracted me to endurance events."

Wallace admits that when he first heard of the RAMM, he wasn't convinced it was an event he wanted to challenge.

"I thought it was crazy and the people who did it were crazy," he said. "But now thinking about and riding for the people who have succumbed to or have cancer humbles me and offers a lot of perspective on how hard a race it can be."

The 42-year-old Rushton, who also hails from Mississauga, is a Certified Management Accountant and has a MA degree from the University of Toronto.

His most cherished athletic accomplishment was the 2003 Coast to Coast race in which he, Wallace and four other cyclists rode 4,500 miles across Canada and raised $500,000 for cancer charities.

His ultimate ambition is to climb Mount Everest when he reaches 50.

Both Rushton and Wallace are hoping their participation in the RAAM will enhance the public's awareness of cancer and earn money for the charities they support.

"We hope to communicate the importance of overcoming cancer and hopefully the impact of every single one of us will have a positive affect on the families living with, through and beyond cancer," Rushton said.

Money earned by the Coast to Coast Against Cancer team support the Lance Armstrong Foundation and Camps Trillium, Oochigeas and Quality in Canada.

For riders like Wallace and Rushton to be competitive in the Race Across America, they must ride about 3,000 miles in nine days. According to the RAMM officials, they do so by racing approximately 22 hours a day over mountains, across deserts and through the "manifestation of pain and doubts the likes of which are unparalleled in almost any other athletic endeavor."Unlike the famous races like le Tour de France, the RAMM has no stages or designated rest periods.

The men and women who compete are dedicated and driven athletes who come from an international field of professionals and all walks of life, the RAMM officials say.

The 2004 RAAM awarded over $170,000 in prizes.

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