British Race Across America team finds respite in Mount Airy

The team of Brits had traveled some 3,000 miles before checking in at time station No. 52 in Mount Airy on Friday.

Starting in Oceanside, California, the team of cyclists alternated between pedaling and resting in cramped minivans, as they endured the blazing heat and frigid nights of California and Arizona desert, climbed the Rocky Mountains, rode across the plains and faced Mother Nature’s fiercest in Appalachia.


But it’s the Race Across America, one of the longest cycling races and most grueling tests of endurance in the world. It’s not for the faint of heart.

Team New Forest includes four riders and a crew of 10. All but one team member is from Great Britain, with the outcast representing Australia. They’ve set out to break new ground, and they’re doing it for a cause.

Crew member Andy Patterson and his brother, Ian, one of the four riders, lost their sister to cancer. They assembled the team and embarked upon this journey to raise money for cancer research in the United Kingdom.

And when the team RV whipped into the Mt. Airy Bicycles parking lot Friday, it was clear team members were feeling the effects of the arduous adventure — and the associated living conditions.

Mount Airy Bicyles had a bike ride on New Years' Day at noon to kick off an effort to ride every day of the year. (Jon Kelvey and Max Simpson / Carroll County Times)

Bike shop volunteer Connor Augerson awaited the teams, something he’s done for years working with Mt. Airy Bicycles owner Larry Black. Black, Augerson and company accommodate the crew and cyclists in any way they can when teams roll into the time station.

“If riders want rest, they can sit in a lawn chair or try out a cot in the [bike] shop,” Augerson said. “Usually they sleep in the Winnebago, but a week [into the race] it’s better to have the grease smell than the athlete smell.”

Andy Patterson was first to jump out of the mobile home Friday, and toting a red and black foam football, it was clear he and the crew were ready to blow off some steam.

They had just endured hellacious conditions and ensuing equipment malfunctions through Appalachia, he said, noting, “We had days of torrential rain and had one biker go down because the electronic brakes broke.”

He attributed the failure of e-brakes, a new cycling development, to the drastic climate swings riders and crew faced crossing 12 states and 170,000 vertical feet.

“It was ride, eat, rest, repeat,” Patterson explained. “We were living on top of each other nonstop for six days.”

But the Mount Airy parking lot and bike shop hospitality offered brief moments of respite from the unenviable conditions.

Patterson and his teammates whizzed the football around the blacktop, freeing their minds of race-related stresses. “I’m not a rugby player,” one joked as the ball went sailing over his head.

Football got boring fast, so fortunately for the weary Brits, Mt. Airy Bicycles had laid out some funky bikes for the guys to test out. Patterson and a teammate jumped on the tricycles and zipped around the lot, cutting close turns and leaving worries in the Winnebago.

“This is what makes it fun,” Augerson said, pointing out the crew goofing off in the parking lot. “They’ve been cooped up inside for six days.”


Race Across America accepts professional and amateur riders alike. They all train rigorously, but for the latter, participating means taking time off work and embracing new roles.

David Horrocks handles social media and photography for Team New Forest, but “it’s not my day job,” he said.

He’s a civil engineer with a passion for live-music photography. But for the race and the months leading up to it, he was marketer-in-chief. Horrocks boosting the team’s social media presence means more donations — a wider reach.

“We’ve smashed it,” he said, proudly swiping through action shots of the riders he snapped on the road. “It’s gotten to a point where people back home are just waiting for us to post stuff.”

Team New Forest tried Race Across America before, in 2011, but they didn’t document much, Horrocks said, and “didn’t have many memories to look back on.”

He’s changed that.

About 45 minutes after the camper and crew members parked in Mount Airy, the lead and trailing minivans pulled in. Game time. As of Friday afternoon, the group of Brits was expected to be the first four-man team to cross the finish line, so there was no time to waste.

The crew lept into action in a flash, dumping the tricycles and forgetting the football. It was time to switch riders and make the home stretch to Annapolis’ City Dock, where Race Across America concludes each year.

Some crew members, bike shop employees, and customers cheered and whistled as the green-and-black-outfitted cyclist rode down Old National Pike. They prepared the next rider and he took off.

Soon thereafter, Patterson jumped behind the wheel of a gray minivan with flashing orange lights, a bike rack and a “Caution bicycle ahead sign” and raced out of the parking lot to assist the cyclist. But minutes after the gray van departed, a disappointed rider walked back toward the shop, bike in hand — it was a mechanical malfunction. Drat.

An orange-vested, flip-flop wearing crew member sprinted up the road to meet the cyclist.

“It’s a problem with the bike,” rider Lee Spoor said. “I’ve had three punctures in the last few days.”

But the crew radioed for help, regrouped and sent Spoor toward Annapolis, cold beer and a real shower.