Thirteen long race stages across a country, two teams competing for the win, gruelling hours in the saddle and stunning scenery. But this isn’t a professional cycling race, and you won’t see Team Sky or Canyon//SRAM racing here. This is Race The World, and it’s open to anyone, including you.
Race The World took place from 1 to 14 November 2015, and was run by Limelight Sports in partnership with dhb, Schwalbe, Wiggle, PlanetK2, Haglofs and Wilier bikes. A new kind of event, it offered a unique opportunity for participating riders to test their endurance cycling mettle, and experience a taste of pro stage-racing life.
BikeRadar exclusively brings you the final video from Race the World – enjoy!
If the video has tempted you, and you’re interested in finding out more, visit the Race the World site for updates and information on the next editions of the event.
What is Race The World?
Race The World is, essentially, a two-week stage race for passionate amateur cyclists. The first edition, which ran from Los Angeles to Miami in November 2015, saw 16 riders tackle 13 stages of 200 to 300km. Riding through deserts, mountains, valleys, storms and more, it turned strangers into teammates, and seems to have been a life-changing experience for some of the riders.
The concept came to race director Gary Willis in 2012. “I was cycling down the Carretera Austral in Chile, Patagonia,” Willis tells BikeRadar. “There was amazing scenery, and incredible roads taking me to these almost undiscovered places. The idea of a race in such a remote location sparked the idea, and the concept grew from there; an experience based on the vision to allow people to race in wild and remote locations taking care of all the logistics for them, to allow them to focus on their performance and nothing else.”
Race The World – a gruelling but ultimately unforgettable event for the participants
“While working with Limelight Sports on their V Series event I put the idea to their senior team who shared the vision of a global event allowing ordinary people to achieve remarkable things in amazing locations, and it went from there really,” Willis continues.
Food and accommodation, bikes and clothing are all provided for riders. They simply need to ensure they are fit enough to race, then dedicate themselves to the challenge. Each night, riders will find a camp set up for them with showers, food prepared, and information briefings for the following day.
Race The World is a team event, with 2015 riders split up into Team Garin led by pro rider Rob Wardell and Team Deman led by Sophie Radcliffe, a self-described “adventurer, endurance athlete, blogger and speaker”. The two teams competed for the overall win.
At £4,950 (about $7,100 / AU$10,100) entrance was not cheap, but for the money racers were kitted out with their own Wilier RTW002 bicycle, custom-made for the race. Designed to handle the variety of road conditions the riders were likely to encounter, it features a carbon frame, fork and steerer, Spyre mechanical disc brakes with Tektro rotors, Shimano Ultegra shifters and rear derailleur, Shimano 105 front derailleur, Wilier disc-specific 32-spoke wheelset and San Marco Era Star Power Open saddle.
Participants also received a set of tyres, team jersey and bib shorts, nutritional supplements and accommodation and meals for two weeks, plus training support in the run up to the event and race support during. And of course a post-race celebratory party!
From Los Angeles to Miami
Departing from Los Angeles on the 1 November, riders progressed through stages of between 60km and 220km, riding through eight US states including Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida. Some stages were through flat deserts on straight roads, riding past Joshua trees. On other days, riders climbed in excess of 1,000m over the stage, with Stage 3 featuring the most climbing at 2,718m.
There were two formats within the overall race. For the Solo Enduro sections, all riders completed the full daily distance. ‘Special’ sections along the route were timed, and it was within these sections that riders were actually racing. Outside these sections riders could set a gentler pace, but still needed to cross-check points by specific times.
The Team Relay sections saw the teams racing together as units, with a minimum of three riders on the road at any one time but no maximum number of riders. Other riders could take the opportunity to rest in a support vehicle but had to be ‘tagged in’ to rejoin the race. The time the team received for these stages was based on the third rider to cross the line, so team tactics came to the fore for these stages.
The overall winner was determined by the team with the fastest time. Team Garin blasted through the first half of the race, taking five of the first six stages. Team Deman found their legs for the second half, fighting back hard to make the battle a close one, but in the end Garin snatched victory on the penultimate day of racing.
Each team consisted of seven or eight riders, a team captain who rode with them and a team manager. The riders came from all walks of life, and had contrasting motivations for joining the race. Tim and Debbie Richards wanted to do something a little different to celebrate their 25th wedding anniversary. Sarah Travers got into cycling via running after a bad head injury stopped her doing her first sporting love, horse riding. As team captain Sophie Radcliffe told us, they all started on one side of the continent as strangers, then through shared experience and team work emerged a full-formed team on the other.
Teamwork lies at the heart of Race The World
The event is open to riders from around the world, and while most of the riders hailed from the UK, 72-year-old doctor Helmut Mark traveled from Canada to participate.
Most riders had the chance to meet each other initially at the training camp which was held in the UK, at which riders were briefed on the training and preparation they would need to do, received their race bikes, and found out more about what they’d signed up to. The training day also assessed the participants’ fitness and skill, so they could be divided up fairly into teams.
An unforgettable experience
Talking to Radcliffe, captain of Team Deman, it’s clear that such a gruelling event held its fair share of lows as well as high points for a lot of the participants, herself included.
“I think the lowest point for me was when we lost the race, on the second-to-last day.” Radcliffe says. “The day before, we’d completely emptied it, so we were tired. I’d been dropped off on the road behind my team and was making my way up to them. I was on my own, and then the other team passed me – and that’s when I knew that we’d lost, and they’d won. There was a lot of emotion put into this race.”
As with any experience as challenging as Race The World, the high points greatly outweighed the low points, something Radcliffe is keen to point out. “Stage wins were definitely high points,” she smiles. “Every time we won it meant so much to us, and we’d run into the sea with our cycling clothes still on and drink tequila!”
Riders faced bad weather as well as good, with a storm putting a premature end to one stage for safety reasons
And the race wasn’t without incident. The inevitable punctures, the occasional crashes, a run-in with some wild dogs, a smattering of barbed wire – the racers even rescued a lone cycle tourer during a storm. “We picked him up off the mountain, helped dry his clothes, and he was so relieved he cried! So he became part of our team for the rest of the day,” recalls Radcliffe.
It’s this type of camaraderie that shines through when people talk about Race The World. Team spirit is one the main factors that makes Race the World special, according to Willis. “I always say cycling is the best team sport in the world! Contributing to an overall performance, however big or small, can be so much more rewarding that just riding for yourself.” he continues. “It makes riding all those tough headwinds on dead straight roads through the desert, wheel-sucking sand roads and washboard dirt tracks worth it when your team mates high-five you for your effort at the finish line.”
Ready for the next one?
Race The World wasn’t a one-off, and there are plans afoot for future editions, although where and when these will be, and whether they’ll retrace the footsteps of the first edition or take a new path, is yet to be decided. Willis is also keen to change a few elements of the event, based on observations from the first edition.
“For future legs in Europe, Central Asia and East Asia we would increase the training requirements provided to participants pre-event to ensure everyone is fully prepared for what will be a huge challenge both physically and mentally,” he says. That said, the event will still be open to anyone.
“Race The World is for anyone up for the challenge.” he says. “The team format allows for the flexibility of people getting stronger as time goes on and people getting fatigued. The USA leg in 2015 was a perfect example of people’s inner strengths coming through at different times; that’s what I love about cycling in a team, everyone has their moment to shine.”
If you’re interested in finding out more about future editions of Race The World, register your name on its website for email updates.