NBC aired last summer's Race Across America on Jan. 22. It featured charges of cheating, a support team abandoning its rider, and the usual heroics and personal triumphs by the participants.
RAAM, scheduled for its 25th year, is the ultimate bicycle road trip. Not a lot of sponsorships or fancy tactics, and no rest days. It's pure butt-on-the-saddle, go 'til you drop.
The Race Across America is just that: start on one coast, finish on the other, stay to the route, and be the first one across the finish line. It covered 2,959 miles in 2004.
The first few back in the '80s were broadcast over a couple of weekends. You could watch the riders deteriorate from swaggering athletes one day to raw-boned survivors the next. It was startling to see how they overcame saddle sores, muscle spasms, lack of sleep, and hallucinations on the road. I remember a guy getting off his bike one night to protect himself from a space alien. Guys like Lon Haldeman, who dominated the event the first few years, subsisted on pizza for fuel.
Here's the results of the 2004 RAAM. Unbelieveable to me is that Pete Penseyre's 15.4 mph average speed for RAAM, set in 1986 over a 3,107-mile course, remains unbroken.
His advice? “Stay on the bike. A steady pace wins the race.”