Race Across America FAQ

, , , | UltraRob | Tuesday, June 17th, 2008 at 6:03 am

The Race Across America website has a RAAM FAQ. Although it has some great answers to questions, there are questions that I get asked that aren’t on the web site.

Of course with as few people that know about the Race Across America, maybe the first question should be What is the Race Across America? It’s a bike race that is 50% longer than the Tour de France and is done in about half the time.

I’ve written answers to some of the questions that I often get. I didn’t answer all the ones that are on the RAAM site or gave different answers so you may want to read that FAQ too. If you have any other questions, ask it in the comments below.

Where is the start and finish?

How many years has the race existed?

Who can do the race?

How far is it?

How long do racers have to finish?

What is the typical winning time for the solo racers?

How much do RAAM racers eat?

What do RAAM racers eat?

How much sleep do the racers get?

How much sleep does the support crew get?

What happens if the weather is bad?

Why are the solo average speeds so slow?

Why do the riders always ride alone?

How do the solo racers keep from getting sore butts?

What are time penalties?

Why would someone volunteer to crew?

Why are all times reported in Eastern Daylight Time?

Where is the start and finish?

In 2008 the start is in Oceanside, CA and the finish is in Annapolis, MD. Normally there are small changes to the route from one year to the next. Sometimes the route is totally changed.

How many years has the race existed?

2008 is the 27th year for the solo race. The first year it was called the Great American Bike Race and 4 guys competed.

Who can do the race?

Anybody can race on a relay team. Racers have to qualify to race solo. Most of the qualifiers are over 500 miles or are 24 hour events.

How far is it?

RAAM is always right around 3,000 miles. Compare that to the Tour de France which is 2,000 miles and takes 3 weeks.

How long do racers have to finish?

Generally the racers have the time below to finish. Racers riding a fixed gear bike, hand cycle, etc. are often given extra time to finish. There are also time cut-offs along the route to keep the race from getting too spread out.

  • Solo Men – 288 hours (12 days)
  • Solo Men 60+ – 309 hours (12 days, 21 hours)
  • Solo Women – 309 hours (12 days, 21 hours)
  • Teams – 216 hours (9 days)

What is the typical winning time for the solo racers?

The last several years the winning time for the solo racers has been a little under or just over 9 days.

How much do RAAM racers eat?

Most racers try to get about a little less than 300 calories an hour. Some are able to eat even more. That adds up to about 6,000 calories a day. That’s 3 times the typical calories for a man.

What do RAAM racers eat?

Many racers eat mainly liquids since they’re easier to digest. Others claim to be able to stomach pizza and cheeseburgers. I wrote fairly detailed about my RAAM nutrition when I raced in 2006.

How much sleep do the racers get?

The top solo racers typically take short naps or sleep for 90 minutes at a time. More than 3 hours of sleep a day is considered a lot. It’s said that one year Jure Robic slept 8 hours in the 9 days it took him to finish.

The racers on the relay teams can get more sleep since they can sleep while another racers is riding. For them the amount of sleep will depend on whether they are on a 2, 4 or 8 person team.

How much sleep does the support crew get?

The people on the support crew should be able to get more sleep than the racer since they take turns in the follow vehicle. Even so the crew also has to get the other vehicles down the road, find food and water, fix bikes, etc. The crew also end up being at least a bit sleep deprived.

What happens if the weather is bad?

The clock is always ticking in RAAM in spite of what happens. One rider getting caught in a storm and another one not is just part of RAAM. Riders will sometimes decide to sleep during a storm. In 2006 an official stopped me just after dark one night, he said there was a tornado in a town not far down the road. He wanted us to stay safe but I wouldn’t get any time adjustment if I stopped.

Why are the solo average speeds so slow?

The average speed is calculated on total elapsed time. It includes all the time that the racer is off the bike. Unlike races like the Tour de France, riders aren’t allowed to ride in packs so the speeds are slower. Also as most racers become fatigued and sleep deprived they struggle to go very fast. When the average speed for a time station is shown under 10 mph, it’s usually because the rider took a sleep break.

Why do the riders always ride alone?

It’s one of the rules of RAAM. It is an individual competition and no drafting is allowed. Racers are actually allowed to ride side by side for up to 15 minutes. After 15 minutes they have to separate until 24 hours has gone by. Riders get spread out and don’t pass very often. Even when they do they generally aren’t in the mood for more than a couple minutes of chatting.

How do the solo racers keep from getting sore butts?

There are lots of things like using chamois creams, good padded shorts, and keeping the shorts dry to help prevent saddles sores. Unfortunately nearly every rider ends up with a hurting behind.

What are time penalties?

Time penalties are generally given for the support crew breaking a rule. There are a lot of rules to keep the racer and crew safe. Penalties can be given for things like not calling race HQ within 30 minutes of going through a time station, not pulling the support vehicle far enough off the road when stopped, following a racer without flashers turned on, etc.

Time for penalties is as follows

  • 1st Penalty 15 minutes
  • 2nd Penalty 15 minutes (Total – 30 minutes)
  • 3rd Penalty 30 minutes (Total – 60 minutes)
  • 4th Penalty 45 minutes (Total – 105 minutes)
  • 5th Penalty 60 minutes (Total – 165 minutes)
  • 6th Penalty Disqualification

Who pays for the crews?

Each racer finds their own crew. The racer normally pay all the crew’s expenses. Most crew members are volunteers but in some cases they get paid a small amount.

Why would someone volunteer to crew?

It’s a way for people that don’t think they can do the race to be involved. There are some that have crewed many years. It’s also a good way for someone thinking about racing to learn more about the race. Some that crew are friends and family that are talked into it.

Why are all times reported in Eastern Daylight Time?

The race crosses 3 time zones. Rather than keep track of time zones, all times are reported in race time which is EDT. Watches and clocks in support vehicles are set to EDT before the start.

Crew still have to remember which time zone they are in to know when they must be directly following a rider. Riders must always have a follow vehicle between 7:30 PM and 6 AM. Crews also have to know local time to know when stores open and close.

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One response to “Race Across America FAQ”

  1. […] more about RAAM, check out my Race Across America FAQ. The 2009 race starts on June […]

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