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Pundits watch as Slovenia slogs it out through desert

Well, are the pundits right? At the start of this year’s RAAM, there were predictions that 2009 might not be another Jure Robic runaway win, and even as he hit the half way mark in Kansas on Sunday, two riders were within striking distance.

Now, this is a distance of one hour and two hours behind, which might seem an eternity but in this race, Daniel Wyss of Switzerland and Slovenian Marko Baloh are relatively wheel-to-wheel with Robic.

The challenge to army major Robic is also being compounded by a throat infection thought to have been brought on by the atmosphere in the dry plains of Arizona and Utah. However, he is still in the lead and although it is said he hates flat riding and headwinds, it is in the forthcoming mountain stages of West Virginia that he is likely to excel.

The women’s race has been a two-rider contest since Saturday, when South African Michelle Sanilhano pulled out in Pagosa Springs, Colorado. She had been dealing with thigh and hip flexor issues since Tuba City, Arizona, and when it became apparent that she couldn’t beat the time cut, she abandoned.

American Janet Christiansen remains out front, about two hours ahead of Brazilian Daniela Figueiredo Genovesi. Both were in Kansas on Sunday, somewhere between Elkart and Plains. Christiansen has suffered with saddle issues since Arizona, while the cold and wet of the mountains between Pagosa Springs and Taos took their toll on Genovesi.

Although six riders have now dropped out of the men’s event, the three Brits in the RAAM are still at it, albeit down the table. Jim Rees and Daniel Rudge are in 10th and 11th place respectively, with average speeds of 12.37mph and 12.34mph. Richard Newey is 13th, with a speed of 12.25mph.