There's a familiar site for the RAAM crew: Rob's ass in front of you and a McDonald's in the rear-view mirror.
Rob is facing some fierce (30-50 mph) headwinds that are slowing him down to a crawl. Of course, the other riders in his "group" are also facing the same thing.
Rob has made it to TS 18, Alamosa, CO, at 7:00 PM EDT. By all accounts it is a brutal grind out there.
There has been a change in position since the last update. Rob is still in fourth, but Mark Pattinson has put a bit more time on Rob and now leads by about 3.5 hours at TS 18 (it was just under three hours at TS 17).
The interesting thing is that an Austrian rider, Georg Payer, has made a move and is now in fifth place, just 26 minutes behind Rob. This guy is showing really good strength and his move today is impressive. Warner-Smith is now in sixth, a half-hour behind Payer.
Not all is as it seems in RAAM, however. For the remainder of the race, an examination of when riders sleep is important to knowing how they are truly placed.
For example, by looking at the time station log for Payer, I can see that he was riding last night while Rob was sleeping. That means it is likely that he will sleep again before Rob does, so Rob will open up a gap on him. Of course the "X-factor" is nobody knows how long another racer's sleep break will be. One rider could need five hours, while another only needs two. All of this factors in to where riders are on the course and how they plan their strategy. Sleep too much and you lose ground. Sleep too little and you lose your mind. It's quite a chess match - with yourself and with the other racers.
BTW - in case you are wondering how I know when a rider sleeps, you just look at the their time station log. If his average speed has been 13 or 14 mph through most time stations and it drops to 6-8 mph, you know he slept heading into that time station.
Night crew is about to come on shift as Rob faces the second of his three mountain passes today - La Veta Pass, which is not horrible (by comparison). It is about 13 miles, with grades ranging from 2-5%. After the La Veta time station, he faces Chuchara Pass, which is about 17 miles long and gets to 6% in the last four miles.
Not an easy night ahead.