Two-Wheeled Wonder Sets Cycling Record

Isabelle Drake, left, and Raw Milk Cats team members before their epic Oceanside-to-Annapolis bike race.

Laguna Beach’s Isabelle Drake, 58, helped set a new ultra marathon cycling record last month during the 30th running of the 3,000-mile Race Across America.


Drake, a 10-year resident, was one of four women on the Raw Milk Cat team that set a new women’s record across all age categories by completing the non-stop relay race in just six days, 11 hours and 34 minutes, according to online results by the Boulder, Colo., organization. The foursome beat two younger women’s teams and five eight-person men’s teams and shaved an hour off the previous top women’s record set by Team Florida in 1996.


Raw Milk Cats, who range in age from 50 to 59, averaged 19.22 mph. Riders in the Tour de France, currently underway, pedal 3,430 miles in three weeks, and stop to sleep every night. Drake and the Raw Milk Cats rode non-stop covering about the same distance in less than seven days.


Each rider pedaled as fast as possible about 100 miles per day, with one rider on the pavement day and night and gaining over 110,000 feet in total elevation. They left on June 17 from Oceanside, crossing portions of 12 states en route to Annapolis.


“We climbed up to 10,000 feet on Wolfe’s Pass in Colorado, the highest actual elevation.  Cat and I shared that portion of the ride.  Lori and Jeanine did the brutal climbs through the Ozarks and the Appalachian Mountains,” Drake said.


Drake made her first two-wheeled distance trek in 2000 from San Francisco to Los Angeles, participating in a fundraiser for AIDS awareness and research. Ultra marathon cycling is considered an extreme sport that requires physical and mental toughness. One of Drake’s favorite lines from the film “A League of Their Own,” is:  “If it was easy, everyone would do it. The hard is what makes it great.”


Her teammates, Cat Berge of Sweden, Lori Cherry and Jeanine Spence, both of Fresno, began training and planning race logistics a year ago with crew captain Lee Mitchell, 75, of Woodland, a RAAM record-holder and veteran of 23 races. Last July, Mitchell told Drake he was available to coach when his own trainee decided against riding. She contacted former teammates from previous non-stop 500-mile jaunts in Utah and Death Valley. “Lori calls me the spark,” Drake said.


Drake herself rides about 1,000 miles per month on a custom carbon fiber American-made Serotta bike. In 2009, she qualified for solo RAAM riding a 1200 k (750 miles) in 74 hours.  Race Across America is considered to be the “Superbowl” for ultra cylists.


The team’s costs, $8,300 per person, was supported by Fresno’s Organic Pastures, raw milk producer; Kentucky’s Alltech Life Sciences, involved in livestock health; and Sweden’s BioMass Capital, a developer of biomass energy.


“Our message was to inspire women of all ages and all our sponsors are eco friendly,” Drake said.


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