Insight Race Across America bike riders are expected to be pedaling through Brazil on U.S. 40 beginning about June 25 or 26. The 2,958 mile trek began, for solo riders on Sunday and for teams today, at San Diego, Cal.
The finish line is the Kennedy Plaza on the Boardwalk across from Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City, New Jersey. The cutoff time is July 2. However, most of the biking teams will complete the cycling marathon in six to eight days and solo riders will average eight to ten days.
According to Paul Skilbeck, PR Director for Insight Race Across America, the RAAM is the "toughest bicycle race anywhere in the world."
Started in 1982, the RAAM is compared to the Tour De France in its early years. But this pro-am cycling race is 40 percent longer and includes 103,000 feet of climbing. The RAAM is sometimes referred to as "The Tour de France done the American way".
While the Tour de France is now bigger, better known and faster, the RAAM is the true test of pure physical and mental endurance.
"With the Tour de France, after six to seven hours of riding the cyclists get off their bikes, eat and stay the night in a hotel," Skilbeck said by phone last week. "Solo riders in the RAAM get by on two to three hours of sleep per day. They can do that for about nine days and not collapse."
Top individual racers pedal about 350 miles per day, burning 9,000+ calories. For solo riders, every three or four minutes off the bike allows competitors to gain a mile.
"One main challenge is the mental condition," Skilbeck said. "In the RAAM it's not, will you hallucinate, but what will you see when you hallucinate. That's why riders have a support unit following very closely through the entire race."
In VeloNews Magazine, John Hughes wrote, "Although some RAAM participants are competing for the podium most will be racing to finish officially, not against the competition but against the course and conditions. RAAM riders demonstrate most dramatically the strength inherent in the human spirit."
The race, with a total purse of $170,000 in cash and prizes, goes through 14 states. It gives the participants and followers an opportunity to see the natural beauty of America.
The 99 riders, consisting of solos, two, four and eight person teams, come from all over the world. Besides the USA, cyclists will represent Switzerland, Slovenia, Italy, Austria, Netherlands, Canada, Brazil and Germany.
The fastest solo riders in this year's race are expected to be Austria's Wolfgang Fasching, Slovenia's Jure Robic and RAAM record-holder Rob Kish of the USA. Kish's solo record for the continental two wheeled crossing is 8 days, 3 hours.
The only Hoosier in the race is 71-year-old Chris Stauffer from Fort Wayne. Raised in the Amish community, Stauffer has built homes in the Fort Wayne area for 47 years.
He'll be riding in a four person men's team. This is his 9th year of competing. Stauffer's favorite quote could be the mantra for all of the bikers. "Pain is temporary, pride is forever."