The third time Ed Kross of Framingham biked in the Race Across America, he vowed before the start
that it would be his last try for the Holy Grail of ultramarathon cycling.
He had pedaled the 2,900 miles with aplomb in 1992, earning the title Rookie of the Year. He had done it again in 1994, finishing in seventh place with a respectable time of nine days, 14 hours and 19 minutes.
In 1997, riding a slightly longer, hillier route, he was still 125 miles from the finish line in Savannah, Ga., when the official race clock stopped running (48 hours after the winner finished). Reeling from sleep deprivation, Kross and his nine-person support crew called it quits.
Having the letters DNF (for Did Not Finish) next to his name in the record books did not sit right with Kross, a can-do person. "I couldn't leave it at that," he said.
It wasn't long before he was planning for RAAM again. His brother, Vic, a television production manager from Londonderry, N.H., was ready to help with fund-raising, as always.
However, the following March, Vic was diagnosed with acute myelogenous leukemia. "We just couldn't concentrate on anything else," Ed said. RAAM '98 was off the agenda.
Vic's cancer was vicious and quick, and he died a year ago last week, at age 41. During his illness, he told Ed he would leave him enough money to ride RAAM again. It costs about $15,000, Kross said, including moving the crew across the country in a motor home.
"He said that rather than spend my effort on fund-raising, I should spend it on training instead," said Kross, who turned 40 this spring. "So I've taken that to heart, and I think it's working. I feel good, a lot less nervous than in previous years."
Kross, an electrical engineer with Datum Inc. in Beverly, is a member of Northeast Bicycle Club.
This spring he's been biking about 400 miles every other weekend, with shorter rides, local races, and even some hiking in between. "I do the Wednesday time trials (in Boxford) and I'm spinning my regular times, so I seem to be recovering pretty quickly" from the long-distance efforts, he said.
"I'm motivated to do this," he said, "and I feel like I'm riding stronger than ever."
Kross' father, also named Vic, will head his support crew. Other experienced crew members are Sally Fuller of Harvard, a nurse; and NEBC racers Juan and Patty Ochoa of Harvard. New to "Team Kross" are massage therapist Anita Paton of Acton; physical therapist and cyclist Ann-Marie Starck of Watertown, Kross' girlfriend; NEBC rider Roger Steele of Sturbridge; and cyclists Susan Grieb of Bedford and MJ Sassler of Arlington.
To hear Kross tell it, the crew works harder than he does. Next weekend they'll take a 30-hour nonstop shakedown ride all over New Hampshire, Kross pedaling and the others driving, day and night.
Crew members will take turns on two-hour shifts as minivan driver or navigator and feeder, while others follow in another vehicle. The van stays very close to the cyclist and pulls alongside him for the navigator to hand over food or clothing from the passenger side.
Kross trashed his beloved Ouellette bike in a spill in a covered bridge in New Hampshire last fall, and he transferred the components to an Aegis he picked up at a swap meet in Palmer in November.
For RAAM he'll be on a brand new Peter Mooney steel frame with Campagnolo components. "The parts are spread out all over my living room," he said. "I just haven't had time to put it together."
There are 21 entrants this year in the RAAM solo division, none of them women. Contenders include Gerry Tatrai, 35, from Australia, who won last year; 1997 winner Wolfgang Fasching, 31, from Austria; 1996 winner Danny Chew, 36, of Pittsburgh, Pa.; and Rob Kish, 44, of Port Orange, Fla., who won in 1992, '94 and '95.
Kross' main goal is to be an official finisher. "I'd like to get in in under nine days," he said.
Kross will leave home July 16 to drive the motor home to the race start in Irvine, Calif. The race starts July 24, and day-by-day updates will be on the Web at raamonline.com.
Kross' bike friends are putting on a bon voyage spaghetti supper at 7 p.m. July 9 at the First Baptist Church, 1580 Massachusetts Ave., Lexington. Cost is $5, $2 for children ages 3 to 12, free for children under 3. Kross and crew will be there to answer questions about the race route, tactics, logistics and competitors. Reservations are recommended by July 7; send a check payable to Ed Kross RAAM '99 to 559 Union Ave., Framingham, MA 01702, or call (508) 872-4592.