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Solo driver Martin Neitzke gives up “Race across America”.

Where can we reach you right now?

We’ve crossed Kansas and are cruising through Missouri. Unfortunately, I’m sitting in the camper and not on the bike. So I watch my crew, who take turns in the saddle on our way to the east coast. We are now driving our personal Race across America.

Why did you have to give up trying to drive across America from west to east as a solo driver in ten days?

At first it was just a feeling of coldness on my chest, then it became increasingly difficult to breathe and I had rattling breathing noises. This became even more pronounced in the mountain air in front of the Rocky Mountains, where we had to conquer more than 4000 meters in altitude within 250 kilometers. I got 30 percent less power on the pedals. At first I blamed it on fatigue – but then I realized that there was more to it than that.

What was it?

I pushed my way over a climb at 2500 meters, but then at the next crew change – the crews of the support vehicle took turns every eight hours – I decided to stop. I had a fever of almost 39 degrees and bad blood oxygen levels. Then I spent 24 hours in a motel bed and dropped out of the race on a doctor’s recommendation.

It all started off really well, didn’t it?

Yes, in the first 23 hours I drove 600 kilometers and had already built up a small buffer. In order to escape the greatest heat in the Californian desert, I took my first nap in the afternoon. I then got back on the bike at 43 degrees – with an ice pack on my neck.

How emotional was it to end the project, which had been in preparation for almost two years, early?

In my condition, there was no alternative at the moment. But you quickly forget that and two days later you ask yourself whether it really should have happened that way. It’s a big challenge to accept that. The anger and disappointment after all the preparation is immense. Especially since the problems came so quickly and so severely that we were unable to react to them.

You said before that a lot can go wrong on such extreme rides. But did you really expect it could end so soon?

Ultracycling means that the races are very selective and there is always the chance of failure. What you can also see from the fact that after a little more than half the race, a third of the solo starters have already dropped out. Only about half will probably reach the finish line. Unfortunately I’m not one of them.

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