First it should be noted that this event has more rules than an Army boot camp. A couple of the rules that came into play for this story are: #650 Night Riding and Safety This was modified slightly before the race started when they changed the time that these rules would take effect each day. They moved the time from 8 pm local time to 7 pm local time. The rule in summary, says that the rider after 7 pm local time has to use full lights on his bike and must be in the headlights of the follow vehicle at all times. The biker and the follow vehicle are considered "one". Of course at 7 pm local time you still have to be wearing your sun glasses in most cases, so the rule seems a bit much at this time of day. The other rules #625 Sportsmanship and #640 Passing will become self explanatory as the story unfolds. A violation of any of the rules outlined in the RAAM rule book could result in a time penalty.
This all took place towards the end of Day 1. Day 1 was very chaotic in many ways and this just topped it off. The first 21.7 miles of the race no vehicles are allowed on the course. So we made the decision, screw it, we'll just make John ride the whole way and try to burn him out early. After the 21 mile mark we began our regular rider exchanges every 7 to 8 miles. Everyone, however, was looking forward to experiencing the "glass elevator" that we had heard so much about in the build up to the start of the race. The riders decided before the race to have John make this decent as they had hoped that he would be tired enough to control himself by this time of the evening. Here is the description from the Routebook: “Marked 8% downgrade "The Glass Elevator". Caution---dangerous descent.”
As we approached the crest of the descent we set up the follow vehicle I was driving with a member of the film crew. Kevin mounted his camera on the hood of our red van using some kind of suction cup device. I was a little skeptical that it would actually hold. One other thing to mention, the red van had major issues with the brakes. It seems the rotors were warped and at certain speeds (any speed) it would cause the whole van to shake when the brakes were applied. So thinking ahead we decided this would be the best vehicle to follow John down the "glass elevator" at high speeds.
We made the rider transfer about 1 mile prior to the crest. Unfortunately the transfer was made at 7:01pm local time. This meant I had to follow John at a distance of no more than 50 ft according to the rules. As we approached the descent we began to overtake a slower rider. When this happens, they are supposed to slow and allow the approaching rider to pass safely. See rules #625 & 640. Needless to say that didn't happen. John yelled back at me, "Can I Pass?" and I replied "When they let you". I didn't get the complete sentence out when John sprinted to the left and passed the other van and rider on the first blind hairpin turn of the descent. By the time I got around, crossing the double yellow, it took me at least a half mile to catch John who was cruising at 40 to 50 mph by that time. As I tried to follow through the twisting road, alternating between gas and bent rotors, I kept catching a glimpse of Kevin's camera chattering on the hood each time I touched the brakes. This pursuit lasted for 11 miles. As we sped into Borrego Springs for the rider transfer John was screaming joy. John later said it was the most fun he had ever had on a bike.
I do have to mention one more rule to end this story. We were told numerous times: riders can never reverse and ride back along the course. This can subject the team to disqualification. But as John was finishing the "best ride of his life" he decided to flip a u-turn and ride back to high five the crew. Fortunately, the official that was present missed that action and we continued with our rider transfer and the team continued on into the desert evening.