The Icelandic deCode team brought home the silver in Racing Across America
The bicycling team for the Icelandic founded company deCode Genetics took the silver in the 8 man team competition in Race Across America (RAAM) last Friday. The team arrived in Iceland yesterday and are over the moon with the result according to Páll Gestsson, one of the team mates.
The team has participated in the Cyclothon here in Iceland but wanted to try something new. They signed up for RAAM for the summer of 2021 but the race was cancelled that year. Therefore, they have been practicing for the race just over two years.
Across the United States
The team started their journey on the West Coast in the town Oceanside just north of San Diego. From there they raced a route of approximately five thousand kilometers through twelve states to the town Annapolis in Maryland, north of Washington DC.
“We just finished this Friday. We stayed there over the weekend but came home Monday morning,” Gestsson says, but he was already at work at deCode Genetics Headquarters in Vatnsmýri.
“There are eight of us, so it is around 800 kilometers per person in six days. We are just properly exhausted after this,” says Gestsson, but during the race the team members only slept three hours per night.
Three hours sleep is not that bad considering
When he is asked whether it wasn’t difficult to ride that much and not getting a good night’s sleep, he says they were one of the lucky ones.
He says that getting a three hour sleep is not bad considering the circumstances. “Some did barely get any sleep when it was difficult to get accommodation and perhaps the organization was not that good. But, overall, it was pretty good to get three hours a night.”
They split the team into two where four were active while the other four rested and each team had their twelve hour riding schedule per day. “Then most of these twelve hours went into driving and following the team that was riding,” he said, but the team drove in three minibuses and had six drivers with them.
Left the big teams in the dust
They camed in second and the winning team was Team Beamer. “They were only there to beat the world record,” Gestsson says, but they were almost an day before the others to the end destination.
“There was quite a difference between us gear-wise,” Gestsson says and adds that the winning team as many others had very strong backup and were well funded.
This is the first time an Icelandic team participates in RAAM, but most of the teams were American but some from other countries.
“The teams came from near and far and were very diverse. From being top athletes in their fields from just ordinary cylists who were riding for a good cause raising funds and took much longer time for the ride.
But most of the teams are people in top shape and trying to win,” and he adds that a lot of the teams had quite an entourage, so money was clearly not an issue.
- And then the Icelanders just come in for the top spots.
Gestsson laughs. “Yes we left a lot of people in the dust who had great funding and a supporting team.”
No time for accidents in Accident
The last day of the competition Gestsson had an accident when he collided with a car.
"I was starting my last shift and had been riding for two hours. I am riding into a town and am riding when tha traffic lights were green." Then he saw a car that was about to turn straight in front of him. "I look up and see the green light and go, but when I look again the car has simply taken the turn right in front of me. I could not even touch the brakes, just went directly into the car and flew over it." Gestsson broke a bone in his hand and was battered after the accident. However, the team had no time for accidents.
"We just shook hands with the driver and made him promise he would look better around himself next time. Then I was brought to our bus."
He was taken to the next hospital where his hand and arm was plastered. He barely made it to catch up with his team to ride with them in to the finish.
On the way to the hospital there was a strange but funny moment. “We were driving and then I see a sigh that says: “Welcome to Accident”.”
With the hand and arm plastered Gestsson was good to go but had to hurry to catch up with his team mates to cross the finishing line.
Almost got the CEO to drive for them
"We have a lot of support here and people are interested in what we are doing," says Gestsson about his company regarding the racing competition.
"Kári (Stefánsson the CEO of deCode) is happy with our success, but I think at this points he is getting a bit tired of it. I think he just wants us to get back to our work," he says and smiles.
- You didn´t just invite him to go with you?
"Yes he was talking about coming with us and being one of the drivers. But when it came to it he was too busy, but we almost got him as a driver."