The idea to enter one of the world’s toughest bike races – which starts in Oceanside, California on June 12 – came to Paul, a member of VC Godalming and Haslemere in Surrey, after he saw a TV documentary about Jim Rees a British cyclist who has completed three solo RAAMs. “I thought it was mad but at the same time a great idea,” explains Paul who was behind Sharp UK’s decision to sponsor the Rapha Condor Sharp pro-cycling team.
“I saw as a life enhancing challenge (rather than a stupid idea, which is how my wife Deb saw it). The combination of the toughness of the race, the experience of riding coast to coast in the USA was just too compelling to resist…forgetting all the practicalities involved. I managed to find three like minded idiots at the club and roped them in,” says Paul.
Those “idiots” are Karl Chandler, Dan Broom and Adam Denton. Like Paul all are experienced cyclists – Broom rode from Land’s End to John O’Groats last year – but none have done anything quite on the scale of the RAAM.
“The real motivation is the fantastic cause we are all dedicated to,” says Paul. “The ability to raise money and awareness for research into prostate cancer has become the key driver for the project and has given it a real meaning and context. We now have more than just a personal reason to avoid failing. We have no option, we have to succeed and it’s amazing what we can do when we the word failure is banned.”
Adam Denton agrees that raising money for The Prostate Cancer Charity is a huge motivation, but admits that he may have “I misunderstood what it was I was trying to do. On paper the RAAM looked easy. I am now a little less sure! However there is lots of cash to raise and a bunch of other team members that are investing heaps of time and effort into the project so I am now motivated by an unrelenting fear of failure and a nagging suspicion it could be a life changing experience.”
Obviously, training for the RAAM is almost as tough as the race itself. “The team has been trying to get in about 400km per week each,” says Paul. “We’ve tried various ways of doing this – riding to and from work, extended 90-minute spinning sessions on a Thursday night (great for catching up with the latest club sounds), longer rides at the weekend in the Surrey Hills; seven hour team turbo sessions (30 mins on, 20mins off for 7 hours including some nasty threshold intervals to try and replicate the RAAM race conditions): individual turbo sessions during those long winter months when you find out your real threshold (boredom) and for one member of the team a 170km time trial on the A31”
“For the final team shakedown next weekend we will be riding to Dijon from Caen – about 550km in 2 days, self supported and self navigated, which should be interesting! We will be meeting the rest of the support crew there to simulate race conditions (which probably means very tired riders). If you add in a couple of night rides, a training camp in Malaga with the Rapha Condor Sharp boys (700km of wet weather training), an epic ride to Glastonbury and back and you have an interesting way to spend six months of your life…not to be repeated!”
As well as the team of four riders, the Sharp4Prostate RAAM team will have a support crew of 10 including a soigneur ‘donated’ by Rapha Condor Sharp. Paul and the team have set a tough target for themselves and aim to finish the event in just seven days. This will mean the team will need to share around 430 miles of riding a day. “If we reach our target it will be worth it,” says Paul. “The money will go towards screening programmes and research into prostate cancer – almost 10,000 men a year die from the disease and raising both awareness and money is vital.”
For more information and to donate visit www.sharp4prostate.org. Alternatively text RAAM to 70700 to donate an instant £5 to the charity. The team will be blogging and tweeting as they race across America, watch this space for more details of their exploits.