Longmont cyclist preps for 930-mile trek across the West
PUBLISHED: February 23, 2020 at 10:00 a.m. | UPDATED: February 23, 2020 at 10:01 a.m.
Relax. Stay focused. Just feel it.
Those are words that Longmont resident and long-distance cyclist Rick Zwetsch often repeats to himself on his hours-long bike rides.
And soon he’ll put that mantra, his mind and his body to their biggest test yet at the Race Across the West, a 930-mile bike race that sees contestants follow a route from Oceanside, Calif., to Durango.
The 63-year-old Zwetsch said he’s doing the race in preparation for an even bigger challenge, too — the 3,050-mile Race Across America from Oceanside to Annapolis, Md. in 2021.
“This is a stepping stone to that race, that race is 3,050 miles all the way across the country,” he said. “I’ve been following that race since it started in 1982.
“I’ve been cycling all my life — not doing rides near as long as this, but, you know, I’ve always thought one day I might do this, but you know, probably not.”
He added that it took the coaxing of some of his friends a couple years ago to finally get him to start prepping.
“I started thinking… I’m 61-years-old — at the time — I’m in the best shape I’ve ever been in, if there’s any time to do it, now’s the time to do it,” Zwetsch said.
And for some time, Zwetsch has been conditioning his body to take on the grueling task of riding hundreds of miles through deserts and covering thousands of feet in elevation.
Zwetsch’s personal coach, world renowned long-distance cyclist Marko Baloh from Slovenia, has completed the Race Across the West twice, with the first of those seeing him clock the fastest time among rookie riders.
He noted that the Race Across the West is the first third of the Race Across America, adding that, besides the fact that it’s at the beginning of the trek and won’t see riders pushing through nearly as much fatigue, he thinks it’s the most challenging portion in terms of terrain.
“This first 1,000 miles of (Race Across America)… there is a big chunk of climbing in it,” he said.
He added that the weather and climate in the stretch is also a big challenge, with the race taking place in summer when temperatures in the southwestern United States routinely top 100 degrees, sometimes 110.
According to Rick Boethling, the executive director for Race Across America, the finishing rate for the Race Across the West is around 60%.
“For me, because I come from Europe… I think it’s the most beautiful part of the race,” said Baloh, who, at the time, was helping cyclists train on the island of Gran Canaria off the coast of Africa. “I mean, Arizona is beautiful, you know, you have Monument Valley and all the cactuses and stuff, and then you get to Colorado which is really pretty.”
Baloh said that he’s been helping Zwetsch by giving him structure in his training, while still allowing him to lead his life outside of cycling.
“I think we’ve been doing pretty good. I mean he’s really been on top of it,” said Baloh. “I give him a pretty exact training plan for every day of the week.”
And on Saturday, Zwetsch was pushing himself to finish a 140-mile ride on his Zwift virtual-training set up, which shows a graphical representation of him cycling on a road along with other riders who are peddling at the same time as him. Even things like wind resistance — if he pulls behind another rider, pedaling gets easier — and climbs in elevation are factored in.
“You know the best thing about a seven-hour ride?” he said while pedaling in his basement training area. “It’s not a 10-hour ride.”
In addition to his mantras, it’s little mental tricks like this — not looking at the clock, not looking at the mile count — that keep him going with his training. According to him, in December 2018, the longest ride he had ever been on was 120 miles.
Besides preparing his body and mind, Zwetsch said that he has to assemble a team of five to six volunteers who will ride in two vans with him constantly throughout the four-day race, providing him with water, food and other necessities so that, unless he needs to sleep, he doesn’t have to stop.
Zwetsch said that the total cost of entering into and completing the race is around $15,000.
Caryn Capriccioso, his partner, will be going along with him for the ride. She said that she’ll be the bridge between Zwetsch and his volunteers, helping to determine if he’s struggling and keeping him on track.
“I’m really excited for Rick,” she said. “I think that he has wanted to do something big like this for a long time and has never had the opportunity to make it happen where everything could come together for it, where he had the support and the time.”
To support Zwetsch in the Race Across America and for more information, visit zraam2021.com/supportrickz.