The 31st edition of the Race Across America got underway at noon on Wednesday, and by Friday morning the leading bicyclists had crossed California, Arizona and were well into Utah.
No sooner will I file this than Reto Schoch, the leading cyclist from Switzerland, could be rolling into Cortez, Colorado — 814 miles into the 3,000-mile crossing. Friday morning he was averaging 18.32 mph so far.
RAAM is trans-America bicycle touring with the fast-forward button punched. Back in 1984, it took us three full days to get more than 100 miles down the road from our departure. Of course we carried our own gear and slept at night, something these competitors don’t do.
This year’s solo men’s RAAM competition started at Oceanside, California, at noon on Wednesday. The destination is Annapolis, Maryland, which the leading cyclists should probably reach by late next week.
Scoch is leading the men’s under-50 solo division, which contains 27 cyclists. Sitting in third place is defending champion Christoph Strasser, an Austrian who won last year with an average speed of 14.9 mph. Another Austrian, Gerhard Gulewicz, sits in second place.
Eleven men are riding in the 50-59 age group, and three in the 60-69 category. There are just four women competing this year , three in the under-50 division and one in the 50-59 age group. See the current standings.
The teams start their race on Saturday.
Because the routes change from year to year, the bests are recorded in miles per hour. Pete Penseyres set the record in 1986 when he averaged 15.4 mph. It’s amazing that the record still stands given all the advancements in training and equipment since that time.
The women’s record was set by Seanna Hogan in 1995, who averaged 13.23 mph.
Team Type 1 recorded the fastest crossing: the eight-person team of cyclists with Type 1 diabetes completed a 3,021-mile crossing in 5 days, 9 hours and 5 minutes.
To learn more about RAAM, there’s the inspiring documentary “Bicycle Dreams” that shows the demands put on the cyclists and their support teams for this race. A book about RAAM, “Hell on Two Wheels,” came out last year.