By Neridah Lock
On June 14th at 1200 (noon), I, along with 3 other Aussie cyclists, our trusty crew of 10 and help from our fantastic sponsors (Champion System, Rocktape, Compressport, Athlete Lab – Singapore, Turbo Studio – Sydney, Interactive Systems Availability, and Watergrass Hill Contracting), will leave Oceanside Pier in California to pedal our way across America. With Annapolis as our final destination we will cover 3000 miles, tackle 170,000 feet of vertical climbing, cross 12 states, pass through 88 counties and 350 communities. We will have a maximum of nine days to complete this race but we are aiming to finish in about seven and a half days.
To do this, the team will endure extreme heat (especially in Arizona and Death Valley), wind (through Kansas), thunderstorms, tornados (possibly), altitude sickness, the dark of night, animals (elk, deer and snakes), fatigue and sleep deprivation as we cross all the major rivers, oh….and several major mountain ranges along the way. To give you an idea of the climbs I have listed some of my favorite ‘snippets’ from this year’s Route Book that I can’t wait to tackle………..said no female ANZA rider EVER:
- Conditions get drier and hotter. The flora changes from trees to cactus in first third of this section. 9% climb. The “Glass Elevator” decent into desert (mile 19) has spectacular views. 8% downgrade – caution dangerous descent.
- Two major climbs take us out of the low desert. The Yarnell grade climbs 1800 feet in 7 miles. From mile 27.5 in Wilhoit until you get to Prescott mountain driving will be treacherous! Averaging more than 130 feet per mile this is the most difficult climbing west of Maryland. Really!
- After leaving Prescott Valley the route winds and climbs to 7000 feet crossing the mountains just to drop to 5000 feet passing through the quaint historic mountainside town of Jerome.
- Averaging more than 128 feet of climbing per mile, this is the toughest section west of the Mississippi River
- The route is now getting into the serious climbing of the Rocky Mountains. Here live some of the best, most skillful, and fastest automobile drivers in the country. At night they will see your unusual lights and perhaps give you extra room while wondering what you are up to. At dusk, dawn, and during rush hours they are less likely to see you before blowing by too close for comfort. Crews protect your racers
- This entire section is either climbing to or descending from Wolf Creek Pass on US 160. For two miles around the summit the racers will be over two miles high. There are two well lighted tunnels on the descent.
- This section is dominated by the second of the high Colorado Rockies passes. La Veta Pass is not nearly as steep as Wolf Creek Pass, but still a challenge.
- Once past Nevada you’ll know you’re not in Kansas anymore! The route will stop seeming to be one dimensional, straight ahead and flat forever, but will begin to wander in all three. If you recall Colorado drivers in the mountains, here the scale is less grand but curves more abrupt, climbs and descents short but steeper, and traffic may seem a lot faster in these closer quarters often with little opportunity to get out of the way. From here to the Mississippi the local folks seem determined to get where they’re going without delay. Don’t let a train collect behind your racer. Not only is it dangerous but it’s also against RAAM rules. Look out for yourself and your racer’s safety as if someone’s life hangs in the balance.
- After Jefferson City, there are very few services prior to Time Station 34. This section follows the Missouri River with several difficult forays into the neighboring bluffs over seriously steep and winding roads. We cross the Missouri River twice in this section.
- The terrain moderates for the rest of Ohio but once into West Virginia and past Parkersburg the most difficult climbing in RAAM begins. The altitude doesn’t approach that of the Rocky Mountains but the climbs are relentless. There is more elevation gained in this section than between any other consecutive time stations anywhere from coast to coast. In fact this and the next two sections are the three with the most climbing. But the most difficult measured in feet of climbing per mile ridden is still ahead between Cumberland and Hancock all in the mountains of…. Maryland!
- A treacherous two-lane road with long steep climbs. Some precipitous drops if you go over a guardrail.
- The four major climbs in this section are tough. The last climb (up Sideling Hill) could be a walker. In Hancock the route is 2 blocks from the Potomac River. The river has dropped 1900 feet in the 90 miles since we crossed the North Branch in Gormania!
- This is the most difficult section of RAAM, measured in feet of climbing per mile. Fortunately there is a bit more downhill than uphill.
Sounds amazing doesn’t it? Am I nuts? Are we nuts? Probably!
For those who have never heard of RAAM before it is considered one the toughest, respected and longest running endurance sports events in the world and was recently voted one of the world’s 10 most extreme challenges!. RAAM is seen as a pinnacle of athletic achievement not only in cycling circles but the greater sporting community as well. It has a very rich history, going back to 1982 when the first RAAM was held. During this year four individuals raced from the Santa Monica Pier in Los Angeles to the Empire State Building in New York City. Covered by national television, the race captivated the public’s imagination. Teams were added in 1992 and quickly became the most popular and fastest growing segment of the race. Relay team racing made the event accessible to any reasonably fit cyclist. The 2014 race will be the 33rd edition of RAAM.
And just so you know – there is no other race in the world like RAAM. The Race inspires everyone who has been a part of it – racer, crew, staff and fans alike. RAAM is the true test of speed, endurance, strength and camaraderie, the ideal combination of work and fun! There is no race that matches the distance, terrain and weather, no other event that tests a team’s spirit from beginning to end.
RAAM is a race! But unlike the three great European Grand Tours (Tour de France, Vuelta a Espana and Giro de Italia), RAAM is not a stage race. RAAM is one continual stage, similar to a time trial. Once the clock starts it does not stop until the finish line. RAAM is about 30% longer than the Tour de France. Moreover, racers must complete the distance in roughly half the time allowed for the Tour.
More importantly, RAAM is not limited to professional cyclists. RAAM is open to professional and amateur athletes alike.
So please follow us on this journey by logging on to the official RAAM website: http://www.raceacrossamerica.org where you can track our progress along the way or by liking’ our Facebook ).
I can guarantee our crew will capture the emotional and physical breakdowns (which will no doubt be hilarious), late-night strategy sessions, great moments of personal triumph, tears, blood, sweat, the occasional (or frequent) EIT’s (Endurance Induced Tourette’s), and all the laughs and smiles ……in intimate detail!
So fellow ANZA riders…..don your lyrca, set up your wind trainer, pull on your compression wear because this is a race you won’t want to miss!