This race itself is unbelievable, but Snyder makes it seem both fascinating and inspiring as she delves into the personal triumphs and struggles of some of the men’s individual race leaders: Jure Robic, Dani Wyss, Marko Baloh, Jim Rees, Franz Priehs, and Christoph Strasser, and the four women competitors: Janet Christiansen, Daniela Genovesi, Michelle Santihano, and Ann Wooldridge. Many of these riders don’t finish the race, but all of their stories are remarkable. Snyder was with the riders the whole way, driving back and forth along the course for first-hand information from the cyclists and their crews. She provides exciting race details, where competitors battle it out through baking desert heat, soaring mountainous climbs, and bone-chilling Midwestern rain, and intersperses the race story with relevant background history about the racers and their crews.
The RAAM is a long, lonely, grueling event and, sadly, it’s one that receives little attention in the sports world. But the winners and losers each have amazing stories to tell about how they got there and why they choose to participate in this soul-crushing sport. Snyder does a wonderful job of presenting both the brutal reality of ultra-distance racing and the life-changing sense of accomplishment experienced by the participants who survive it. And the mind-blowing ending is followed up by an epilogue that was so shocking and stunningly sad, I actually yelled out loud (which scared the heck out of my kids!).
The book includes photographs, acknowledgments and notes, and an appendix that lists the entire 2009 solo riders field, along with their bios and race results.
Hell on Two Wheels reminded me of Jon Krakauer’s Into Thin Air. Whether you’re a cycling buff or a reader who enjoys true adventure stories that grab you by the neck, you’ll love this book. Note: I read an Advance Review Copy.