If there was a trophy to the racer who had the most fun on RAAM my vote for 2016 would be to award it to rookie Robert Ferris (USA) who took 5th in men’s under 50 in a time of 10 days, 21 hours and 43 minutes (11.73 mph average).
Every time that RAAM Media One found him on course he had the biggest smile, seemed like he was just out for a training ride and invariably revealed his quick wit.
At the finish when RAAM finish line emcee George Thomas asked Ferris if his race was fun, he replied, “Maybe too much fun. But I think that’s what makes it memorable.” But not all was fun for the 34 year old USA Cycling Cat2 road racer and Ironman Triathlete, “Not fun moments? Yeah obviously. I had a tough period typically around 10:00 pm and 2:00 am where I’d kind of just get into a bad spot,” Ferris admitted. “Also we had some issues early on that we had to deal with. My crew is just phenomenal. They’re the reason I’m here. If I’m to be totally honest, I was going to quit the first day, man! I was NOT in a good race! Finally I made it to Congress (Arizona) and I was, ‘This is going to be a lonnnnnnng race.’ But things progressed and they kept me going and then we were in Kansas and I was having a blast in Kansas.”
Indeed, in Kansas Ferris was consistently posted time-station speed averages that were among the front runners. He was fastest to Yates Center, Kansas and to Fort Scott, Kansas, and was second fastest to Ulysses, Kansas. “And here we are, 10 days, 21 hours and some change. I think that’s a successful story.” Ferris then motioned to his crew and said, “Thank you guys. Thank you for getting me here; sharing the experience, it was awesome.”
Asked if RAAM was overall a good experience, Ferris answered, “I’d say so. Because you finished, right? You can’t look back and something you’ve completed—something this huge—and not say it was a good experience. There are a lot of layers to that statement. There’s a lot of depth when it comes to what you learned about yourself, how you deal with adversity, how you trust others. Every racer out there, we’re all great athletes and you have to recognize that. We all respect each other and give each other support as we pass, but I will admit, when I saw Honey Badger (Martin Gruebele (USA)) this morning after a little 20-minute nap, I said, ‘I’m dropping the hammer and he’s never coming back.’ And it worked out, I got top-5 which is phenomenal and we came in in sub-11 days, which was a goal of mine. I don’t know, was I top rookie?” Thomas informed him, “The winner (Pierre Bischoff) was top rookie. And then 4th place was the next rookie and then you.” “Oh wow. Third fastest rookie,” he said with a good natured shrug.
Prior to the start, Ferris had said, “The endurance thing has always favored me. In Ironman events I’ve always been able to do better than in Half Ironman events and my cycling ability definitely proved to be my stronger aspect as I moved on to the longer events.” His performance in RAAM proved his self-assessment. With his ability to keep things fun on RAAM and the knowledge gained from his RAAM experience I hope that we see him come back--he's fun to have around and a podium finish is within his grasp.