EL DORADO, Kan.. — Not only is Maria Parker back in the race after a potentially catastrophic setback, she is gaining ground on her competitors as she reaches the midpoint of the Race Across America.
The recumbent biker has pedaled 1,613 miles since the race started June 12, with about 1,382 miles to go, crew member Rob Redfearn said. Over the weekend, Parker left Arizona, traveled through Utah and Colorado and crossed into Kansas. Redfearn’s daughter and fellow crew member, Carly, said Parker was riding through El Dorado on the way to Yates Center, Kan., when this story was being written this morning.
Parker had to stop racing Friday night when a vehicle traveling 65 mph slammed into Parker’s crew members’ van about 70 miles outside Flagstaff, Ariz., according Rob Redfearn. Crew members in the van suffered cuts and bruises, but no serious injuries.
“It was a bit of a shock to everybody,” Rob Redfearn said in a phone interview. “Everything just got destroyed,” including two bikes, six to eight spare wheels, food, clothing, flashlights and batteries.
Rob Redfearn said he and the crew were in a hotel room talking about how to get home when Parker called and said she would accept a “Did Not Finish” designation but was still determined to pedal across the country. She and the crew thought because she had arrived late to a timed checkpoint that she would be disqualified from RAAM. However, race officials allowed her to keep participating by forgiving her late arrival because of the circurmstances.
“I am not going to quit,” Parker said in a statement. “People with cancer don’t quit. The researchers looking for a cure don’t quit. What kind of message would I be sending if I were to stop just because of some adversity? Real adversity is cancer. A car wreck is just an inconvenience.”
Parker had fallen 230 miles behind leader and six-time RAAM winner Seana Hogan, but had cut the gap to 100 miles by Monday afternoon, Rob Redfearn said. Hogan announced Monday night she would withdraw from the race for unknown reasons,.
“Our heart goes out to Seana, because we know exactly how it feels,” Rob Redfearn said.
Redfearn said Parker is now 23 miles behind new leading woman Cassie Shumacher, despite being forced to stop for 23 hours because of the accident.
“In the world of ultra-cycling racing, it’s really amazing,” Rob Redfearn said.
He said Parker is down to one bike with few spare parts and no extra clothing, but has received offers from bike shops to loan her equipment as she tries to finish the race.
Carly Redfearn said Parker climbed 4,000 feet in eight miles on Monday, but the loss of her bikes made such a feat challenging.
“Most racers have a bike for climbing, a bike for flats and a bike for backup. Maria has just one — the one for flats,” Carly Redfearn said. She said the crew had to drive ahead of Parker to find wheels that would make it easier for her to climb.
Parker is riding in RAAM to raise money for brain cancer research through her charity, 3000 Miles to a Cure. Her sister, Jenny Mulligan, was diagnosed with Stage IV brain cancer n October. For more information or to donate, visit www.3000milestoacure.com or its Facebook page. A $10 donation can be made by texting “race” to 20222.
The Robesonian had been providing daily updates of Parker’s progress, but that ended when she temporarily quit the race. The updates will resume in Wednesday’s edition.