Photo by Diane Cox
Joan Dietchman of Cupertino, Calif., stopped in West Alton at the Rivers Edge Convenient Store to check in at the time station before continuing on her trip across the Clark Bridge into Alton.
Participating in the Race Across America, about 300 cyclists began the more than 3,000-mile race Tuesday, June 10, from Oceanside, Calif., to Annapolis, Md., in a race against time to raise funds for their charity of choice. The route brings cyclists through the Alton area to a time station to check in.
Of the more than 300 competitors, only six women took on the task as solo bikers. Since the start of the race, one female solo rider has dropped out after traveling some 1,100 miles.
Running in a tight second place, Joan Dietchman of Cupertino, Calif., stopped in West Alton at the Rivers Edge Convenient Store to check in at the time station before continuing on her trip across the Clark Bridge into Alton. Dietchman completed the race in 2012, finishing in about 12 days, and said she hopes to improve her time in her second attempt.
“I have done several triathlons, but my favorite portion was always the cycling ... that’s why I just wanted to focus on doing a bike race,” Dietchman said of her decision to tackle the grueling race.
“I wanted to ride for a charity so I chose the Canary Research Foundation through Stanford University ... they research new ways for early detection of cancer.”
Dietchman, a software engineer, rides for 22 hours per day and travels 250 to 350 miles per day with an average speed of about 12 miles per hour. The two hours of sleep she gets per day takes place in one of three minivans that follow her during her journey. The vans keep track of navigation, all the racers’ gear, medical supplies or items to repair the bike if necessary. Dietchman will eat and drink while riding and only make stops at her time station locations. Dietchman has raised more than $5,000 for the charity of her choice through the race.
The race crosses 12 states, passes through 88 counties and 350 communities on the trip from California to Maryland. The race is not limited to professional cyclists and is open to professional and amateur athletes. While solo racers must qualify to compete, anyone may organize a team and race.
The first race was in 1982, when four individuals raced from the Santa Monica Pier in Los Angeles to the Empire State Building in New York City. Since then, more than 25 countries have been represented over the 30-year history of the race. Approximately 40 percent of the racers are from outside of the United States and 15 percent are women.
“I can’t think of a better way to see the country,” Dietchman said. “To see the United States from a bicycle, it allows you the time to really see the beauty.”
Dietchman’s most recent time station check-in was at 12:09 a.m. in Sullivan, Ind. She has 2,218.3 miles and has 801.7 miles to go. Bloomington, Ind., is her next scheduled time station and she was estimated to reach that destination just after 7 a.m. Friday.
Joan is sponsored by Spidertech, Vander Kittens and LIV/giant.