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Fairfield Man Leads Team In Bike Race Across America

Fairfield's Tom Kottler, second from right, will compete in the Race Across America cycling event with (left to right) Andy Pemberton, Jeff Ragland of Westport and Adam Pemberton of Redding.
Fairfield's Tom Kottler, second from right, will compete in the Race Across America cycling event with (left to right) Andy Pemberton, Jeff Ragland of Westport and Adam Pemberton of Redding. Photo Credit: Contributed

FAIRFIELD, Conn. – Fairfield’s Tom Kottler has spent a lifetime anticipating the Race Across America. In a few days, he’ll begin his long-awaited journey.

Kottler will join Adam Pemberton of Redding, John Ragland of Westport and Andy Pemberton of Boulder, Colo., for the 3,000-mile bicycle ride from Oceanside, Calif., to Annapolis, Md. The race begins Saturday. Readers can support the team through its fundraising page.

Kottler and his team are racing for the Connecticut Challenge, which Ragland co-founded with Jeff Keith. Kottler said he became interested in the race nearly 30 years ago when he saw it televised on the “Wide World of Sports.”

“I thought who was crazy enough to ride their bike for 20 to 22 hours a day,’’ Kottler said. “It looks ridiculous. I thought I have to do that someday.”

He registered for the race four years ago. “About six weeks before the race, I crashed into a tree and broke 21 bones,’’ Kottler said. “Our four-man team became a two-man team. But I vowed one day I would do it again.”

His team will ride in two-man, seven-hour intervals. While one rider is on the course, the other will be in a team vehicle. The riders will switch every 30 minutes or so for seven hours. The other riders will get ahead of them in another minivan and prepare for the switch.

The team figures that it should average about 18 miles an hour, and should make the trip in about 6.5 days.

“The main thing I’ve done for training is to get fit,’’ Kottler said. “I’ve lost 24 pounds in training. We’ve all trained for it in our own way. I went to a training place, Sherpa in Westport, and they helped me train. John Ragland  and I would meet at 4 or 4:30 in the morning to get used to riding in the dark. We got lots of advice from RAAM veterans, and they all said the same thing, and that was don’t overtrain. It’s basically riding hurt a lot. A lot of this is mental preparation and knowing that it’s going to hurt.”

The support team includes crew chief Bill Begg from Denver, locals , Alexa and Lucas Gubinski and Emmilynne Quinn, and Casey Wheel from San Diego. Quinn will be the massage therapist, an important person on a ride of this length. Pat Hoey, Sam Kottler and Tracie Valentino are other members of the support roster.

Kottler’s team is hoping to raise $150,000 for the Connecticut Challenge. The trip includes 170,000 feet of climbing, crosses 12 states and passes through 88 counties and 350 communities. Unlike the shorter Tour de France, there are no rest days.

“The winning team could beat us by a full day,’’ Kottler said. “We’re doing it as fun, an adventure and a challenge. The really crazy guys do it solo. I’m the weakest rider, a glorified weekend warrior. But I love a challenge, and it’s good to get out of your comfort zone some times.”

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