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4,300-mile ultra-endurance Trans America Bike Race starts June 2 from Astoria to Yorktown, Virginia

Oak Grove's Kraig Pauli is pedaling the Trans America Bike Race, an unsupported 4,300-mile ultra-endurance race from Astoria to Yorktown, Virginia.

"Unsupported," you ask? Yes, the 135 Trans-Am entrants all have to find their own food, water and shelter along the route. The race starts June 2, and there are riders from over 25 countries represented.

Pauli, 51, is favored to be one of its top performers, having won last year's Steens Mazama 1,000-mile race around Oregon in 4 days, 3 hours and 21 minutes, winning the race by about 29 hours.

PHOTO BY: RAYMOND RENDLEMAN - Oak Grove's Kraig Pauli bikes a few miles north from his house to downtown Milwaukie for a media interview on May 30, three days before heading off on the Trans America Bike Race.Portland Dr. Evan Deutsch holds the Trans Am record, last year finishing the journey in 17 days, 8 hours and 58 minutes, shaving over seven hours off the previous record set by Mike Hall in 2014. Last year's race was an impromptu memorial for Eric Fishbein who was struck and killed by a vehicle as he rode in Kansas. It was the second tragedy the ultra-endurance community sustained last year, with Hall losing his life in the final stages of the Indian Pacific Wheel Race in March.

Pauli has appreciated seeing how those in the Portland area have a heightened awareness and courtesy shown to cyclists compared to other parts of the U.S. and world. He has been a champion of cycling since his first long-distance ride at 14 years old.

Pauli is the husband of former Oregon City Commissioner Carol Pauli and the couple remains commercial property managers after selling OC's Midway Historic Public House in 2016, which they owned for 20 years. Growing up in Portland in the 1970s, Pauli remembers when the first bike lane was installed along Sandy Boulevard.

"I get my own lane?" Pauli remembers exclaiming, further reflecting, "It's so much more friendly now, and the awareness has become way better than it was."

In an interview with this newspaper the week before his Trans-Am start, Pauli described how he won the Steens Mazama race "much" to his surprise since he had never entered a bike race before. He had often enjoyed going for long, unsupported rides, and he's an avid bike commuter.

Pauli found a place to sleep during the Steens Mazama race at the top of Crater Lake, in a campground bathroom. He estimated that he slept a total for five of the 99 hours he was in the race.

About 100 miles of the Steens Mazama race is on gravel, which took its toll on Pauli's Specialized bike with a Roubaix endurance frame, worth countless thousands of dollars with all of its accessories.

"I rode the last leg of the race on a wobbly rim with a compromised rear tire," Pauli said. "That's a hard pace to maintain."

For the Trans-Am, Pauli is only bringing along ultra light bicycling and hiking gear to economize on weight. He expects many of his naps will be on the side of the road on a half-sized inflatable mattress. He's planning to average close to 250 miles per day, sleeping five or six hours a night.

"You can't sleep much more than that and hope to be competitive," he said. "There's a saying among us: If it's too cold to sleep, it's time to ride."

Last week he was busy getting his final notes together about fast-food restaurant/hotels/etc along the route and hoping he doesn't forget any critical items, since there are many stretches with limited services. The world of ultra-endurance sports gained a lot of popularity since the first Trans-Am in 2014, due in a large part to the Netflix documentary "Inspired to Ride." 

The race can be watched in real time via a satellite tracking system with an interactive web map. Go to trackleaders.com to watch the progress of the racers who are all wearing GPS trackers.

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