Andrew Willis riding strong nearly 400 miles into Race Across the West

Andrew Willis pedals toward Congress, Arizona, in this photo taken this morning by crew member Sam Frost.
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Andrew Willis pedals toward Congress, Arizona, in this photo taken this morning by crew member Sam Frost.
Andrew Willis pedals toward Congress, Arizona, in this photo taken this morning by crew member Sam Frost.

Andrew Willis pedals toward Congress, Arizona, in this photo taken this morning by crew member Sam Frost.

With nearly 400 miles under his Lycra shorts, Austin cyclist Andrew Willis has already charged well past the point he dropped out of last year’s 900-plus-mile Race Across the West because of overheating and dehydration.

Willis began his second attempt to ride from Oceanside, California, to Durango, Colorado, in the grueling race at 12:37 p.m. Tuesday. At 11 a.m. today he’d covered 389 miles.

That lump on Andrew Willis' back is a bag of ice tucked into a pocket sewn into his jersey. Photo by crew chief Joni Tooke.

That lump on Andrew Willis’ back is a bag of ice tucked into a pocket sewn into his jersey. Photo by crew chief Joni Tooke.

You can track him live here. http://raceacrossthewest.org/live-tracking.html. He’s race number R101.

“He’s doing really well,” said support crew member Sam Frost, speaking by phone from the road near Congress, Arizona, just outside of Phoenix. “He’s staying very well hydrated and his nutrition is doing quite well. Everything at this point is going according to his plan. He did really well through the heat in the desert.”

Last year Willis scratched about 130 miles in, at Westmorland, Calif. This year, cooled by a jersey his wife Holly Ammerman modified to include pockets where he could stash baggies of ice. The custom jersey beats his earlier solution – stuffing ice into an XL sports bra from WalMart.

In this photo taken Tuesday, Andrew Willis gives the thumbs up time as he pedals across California. Photo by Joni Tooke.

In this photo taken Tuesday, Andrew Willis gives the thumbs up time as he pedals across California. Photo by Joni Tooke.

“We commemorated the moment briefly,” Frost said of Westmorland. “We nodded and had a moment of silence.”

Today Willis will face more rolling and hot terrain, including a 100-mile section loaded with 10,000 feet of climbing. He’ll also get off the bike for the first time tonight to catch an hour or so of precious sleep.

Willis’ spirits are good so far, said Frost, who used his tablet to show the cyclist photos of his Austin supporters as he pedaled across the desert.

“He’s trucking right along,” Frost said.

Willis is competing in the solo open division of RAW. So far he’s in second place, behind Sara Cooper, a female ultra gravel racer from Iowa. According to online data, Willis’ average speed is 18.6 miles per hour.

“He’s doing his thing, he’s in the zone, I think he’s going to kill it,” Ammerman said. “I think we’ve come a long way.”


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