Wednesday, November 25, 2015 • 04:16

Race across America passes through Valley Center

Making the grueling climb up the Old Castle grade in Valley Center is a racer from Switzerland.
June 18, 2014
The toughest bicycle race in the world passed the Valley Center segment of the race last week.

A Canadian team member makes the grade with what appears to be little to no effort.
The Race Across America is one of the toughest and longest bicycle endurance races in the world. It covers a distance of 3,000 miles. It is the ultra bicycle endurance challenge for its participants who usually only get, on the average, two hours of sleep per day to cover the grueling course from Oceanside to Annapolis, Maryland in nine to 10 days. Most people can't even drive across the country in that amount of time.

It is truly an international event with teams coming from all over the world. Last year's winner was Christopher Strasser, an Austrian bike courier who's winning time was eight days, eight hours, and six minutes, and is hoping to do it again this year. Thirty-year-old Pippa Middleton and her brother James, 27, who are the sister and brother of the United Kingdom's Duchess of Cambridge, Kate Middleton, entered in team competition this year.

Participants face grueling heat at the onset of the competition as they ride through the California and Arizona desert, which usually average over 100 degrees. As much as 50 percent of the riders will drop out due to exhaustion or medical reasons. The Tour de France is 1,000 miles shorter and riders are allowed to stop, sleep, eat, and get a massage if needed at the end of the day. In comparison, the Race Across America is much tougher and the training is much more intense. This race is a true test of will and endurance as it is a crucible of disorientation and sleep deprivation. There have been two fatalities in the past years; automobiles struck both participants.

Racers must provide their own support crews and vehicles. A crew consists of eight to 10 members and two to four vehicles. The crews provide equipment and necessary spare parts and expertise for repairs, as well as food, medical assistance, massage, directions and entertainment. Working as a crewmember can be as grueling for them as it is for the participants.

There are team racers and there are soloists. Soloists are the stars of RAAM who must complete the course within 12 days. The participants of RAAM are probably the most physically conditioned athletes in the world. It is truly a competition against nature and a competition against themselves.

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