Since 1982, bicyclists from all around the world have prepared, planned and attempted to race across America, and the 2008 Race Across America (RAAM) participants have begun their 3,008-mile quest to get to the finish line in Annapolis, Maryland, setting off from Oceanside, California in waves based on solo or team categories.
Fourteen states and 100,000 feet of elevation will be traversed by solo riders, plus 2-person, 4-person, and 8-person teams. Teams typically cross the country in six to nine days, averaging 350 to more than 500 miles per day. Solo racers finish in nine to 12 days, averaging 250 to 350 miles daily. Teams have a relay format and race 24 hours a day. Solo racers have the challenge of balancing a few hours of sleep each night against race deadlines. Essentially, the RAAM is a time trial, where the clock doesn't stop and riders cover 30 percent more of the distance as that of the Tour de France in half the time, with no rest days.
American Jonathan Boyer setting off from Oceanside, CA in June 2006.
Jonathan Boyer, an American former professional road racer now in his early 50s, accepted a bet in 1985 to race the RAAM and won, although it cost him dearly and may have prematurely shortened his road career. Boyer returned to the RAAM in 2006, and won the new 'Solo Enduro' category at age 50 against mountain bike pro Tinker Juarez and multi-sport athlete Kenny Souza.
Much like the Boston Marathon or Paris-Brest-Paris, participants in the RAAM must qualify to enter. Sponsorship is raised by the individual, who relies on a crew to drive one or two support vehicles. The RAAM itself is not a charity, but more than half of the racers use RAAM as a platform and event to raise funds for various charities. In 2007, racers raised more than US$1,000,000. For many, a personal best is the goal. For others, setting a transcontinental record or revenging bad luck from a prior attempt is the motivator.
Turn left in Arizona, with a slight jog into Colorado, then steady as she goes into Maryland!
To keep all riders accountable, time stations and check points have been established along the route. Slovenian rider Jure Robic is the reigning three-time Solo champion; an American has won the solo category 16 times since 1982, with Allen Larsen winning in 2003.
A solo riding keeping the pace early in the 2008 RAAM.
For a complete list of the participating athletes, click here.