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Cyclist to Race Across America

Charity: Tim Skipper, of Castaic, races to cure diabetes

Posted: June 6, 2010 4:55 a.m.
Updated: June 6, 2010 4:55 a.m.

Tim Skipper, of Castaic, and a team of tandem bicycle riders will Race Across America to benefit the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation. Skipper has completed the race eight times.

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He's conquered the challenge eight times before and is ready to do it again. On Saturday, Castaic resident Tim Skipper, 52, will begin another Race Across America. His team of veteran cyclists is riding to benefit the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation.

With seven other riders, two per tandem bicycle, Skipper will set off from Oceanside and arrive more than 3,000 miles later in Annapolis, Md.

"Once you've completed (Race Across America), you feel like you can handle anything," said Skipper, a single father of 16-year-old triplets - two boys and one girl.

The Race Across America is one of the most respected endurance events worldwide. It is 30-percent longer than the Tour de France, and solo racers finish within half the time, according to the race's website.

In the 8-person tandem division, each mixed tandem pair - one male and one female - ride for 30 minutes at a time, as the other riders and the support crew follow along in vans. After 30 minutes, that pair gets to rest for a maximum time of an hour and a half.

"It goes like that 24 hours a day until we get there (to Annapolis)," he said.

Cycling teams typically finish the race in six to nine days. Team JDRF's goal is to do it in six days, Skipper said.

"We have a good team going so I think we can do it," he said. "We're capable of doing it in six days, a lot of things have to go right, but it's definitely doable."

Skipper plans on breaking his personal record, six days and 21 hours, which was set in a four-man mixed tandem race in 1997.

The Race Across America is "the ride of my life," Skipper said.

"I learn what I'm made of," he said. "I learn how much I can push myself - how to handle myself and how to set goals I can attain."

Stress sets in when a turn is missed or when the next pair is not prepared, Skipper said. Along those 3,000-plus miles, you learn about interpersonal relationships, stress, conflict and team work.

Skipper said sometimes the toughest part is waking up at 2 or 3 a.m. for a 30-minute shift, riding at your best. You have to do it, he said, because your teammate has to do the same for you.

"It's really a mental game," he said. "We push ourselves, the riders and the crew."

The scenery along the way that will include Sedona, Arizona and Gettysburg - along with the challenges and life lessons - make for an unforgettable experience.

"It's like therapy," he said. "It's a year's worth of life wrapped up in a week."

He also meets many good-natured people on the ride, he said. Skipper is often encouraged by complete strangers who want to help, he said.

He recalled a time when the owner of a fast food chain brought buckets of chicken for his entire team. Or the time a team van ran out of gas and a stranger came to the rescue.

"Things that happen like that are just really neat," he said.

The race crosses through 14 states and will take its challengers more than 100,000 cumulative feet of climbing, which includes three passes over the Rocky Mountains in Colorado.

"It's a lot of climbing," he said. "There's a lot of climbing towards those last days, which is tough because you are whipped. Some of those roads in Pennsylvania and West Virginia are very steep."

Team JDRF is aiming to raise $100,000 for the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation. The team has sponsors for the Race Across America and other races it will participate in throughout the year - including the Furnace Creek 508.

The team also receives individual donations through its website.

The research foundation is a leader in funding research to cure Type 1 diabetes, an autoimmune disease that strikes children and adults suddenly, but lasts a lifetime, according to the organization's website. With Type 1 diabetes, the body's immune system attacks and destroys the insulin-producing cells of the pancreas.

Skipper said he first learned about the foundation through his work at Medtronic Diabetes in Northridge.

But the cause hits even close to home for Skipper because his father is diabetic.

Skipper grew up watching his dad cycle, he said.

"He still rides his stationary bike every day," he said. "My inspiration is my dad - he's a leader, a great man and keeps himself mentally and physically fit."

Skipper began cycling in the early 1990s. His two sons have adopted their father's interest in cycling and last year they completed their first Race Across America.

"Since I've learned so much from the (race) myself, I wanted them to get that sense of accomplishment to take through college and through life," Skipper said.

Skipper has competed in dozens of races throughout the years, but none compare to his eight races across America. Skipper hopes to one day make it into Race Across America's Hall of Fame.

"It's a life experience that's just truly amazing," he said.

Visit www.raceacrossamerica.org to track Team JDRF's progress in the Race Across America. To donate to the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation visit www.teamjdrf.org.

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