Friday, November 13, 2009

The Support Van

This one is a sidebar to the article above.

Published June 10, 2005 in the Keizertimes

When Kenneth Philbrick’s parents, Cathey and David, volunteered to be part of his support crew as he cycled in the Race Across Oregon they expected a lot of down time.

They even brought books to read as they tooled along behind their son at 15 mph, but they didn’t crack them open once in the 35.5-hour trip.

“I expected to sleep at least a little, but I think I only slept 15 minutes during the whole time,” said David.

Kenneth won the 538.9-mile race, but he modestly claims that he had the easy job.

“All I had to do was pedal the bike,” he said.

Kenneth’s support crew drove a minivan bedecked with caution signs, warning lights and a magnet stating simply, “Philbrick 109.”

The support team included Philbrick’s uncle, Larry Philbrick, and long-time friend and cycling partner, Ben Larson.

Ben acted as captain of the team, but he himself had never competed in a race more than 300 miles.

“Everything after 300 was new territory, but the same energy principles still apply,” Ben said.

In addition to keeping up Kenneth’s morale via a handheld radio and earpiece, the support crew mixed energy drinks, kept logs of his caloric intake, and acted as his pit crew during infrequent rest stops.

“I would just hold my arms out straight and they would take care of everything else,” Kenneth said.

Everything else included changing overshirts to checking tire pressure. He spent only about 25 minutes off his bike the entire race.

During the last eight miles of the route scaling Mt. Hood, the crew played music for Kenneth on a radio they held out of the car’s window.

“I was surprised at just how involved I was in the race without being on the bike,” said Ben.

Cathey said Ben’s ability to summon strength from Kenneth was invaluable to completing the race, but the ride was filled with harrowing moments as well.

“I really began to worry when we would hit a lot of traffic,” she said. “There were also some areas near the end where the side of the road narrowed and you could see it was a struggle to keep the bike on the road.”

David said he battled tears when he talked to his son over the team’s hand-held radio.

“It was difficult because there is this tremendous feeling of pride in what he’s doing, but watching what he went through physically was painful,” David said.

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