They call it the “world’s toughest bike race” — and for good reason. The Race Across America, or RAAM for short, crosses the entire country from California to Maryland, covering 3,000 miles. Cyclists can compete either individually or as teams of racers, but once the clock starts, it doesn’t stop until they cross the finish line.
This June, Dave Eldridge will participate in his eighth RAAM as the crew chief for a team of four racers. But it isn’t just about finishing for this team: they’re aiming to break the world record for a team whose average age is over 75 years old. Even more impressive? If they succeed, it will be the fourth world record team that Eldridge has helped cross the finish line.
“My job is to make sure that the logistics support the racers,” Eldridge says. “All the four guys on the bike are responsible to do is get on the bike and ride it as hard and as fast as they can until they’re told to stop.”
However, organizing the logistics is quite the complicated job. Working in teams of two, the riders will alternate racing between 5 and 10 miles, then riding ahead in a car to take over for the next leg. This will continue for seven straight days — with short stops at hotels where teams will alternate sleeping and continuing the race.
“When they’re on the bike, it’s an all-out sprint,” Eldridge explains. “It’s not a get on the bike and pace yourself. This is get on the bike, get up to full speed and maintain that speed.”
While the logistics certainly aren’t easy, Eldridge has learned a lot in his seven previous RAAMs. Plus, he doesn’t have to manage everything alone: he has a crew of 12 volunteers helping him out. And every member of their team — from the racers, to the crew, to Eldridge himself — will be wearing FITS socks.
“The crew will be wearing either running socks or hiking socks, and the racers are going to be all fitted with compression socks,” Eldridge says. “Ever since FITS came into existence, I’ve had the crew in FITS socks.”
Unlike other cycling races, RAAM doesn’t come with prize money. So, why put so much time, effort, planning and training into racing across the country?
“This is all amateur. The only reason people do this race is the insanity associated with it,” Eldridge jokes.
But in all seriousness, he says it’s the competitive achievement that keeps him coming back for more. “You do it because it’s fun and you enjoy it. The guys on the bikes — it’s incredible,” he says. “There’s never a minute in time from when we start until when we finish that someone is not turning a crank on a bicycle. All day, all night, irrespective of weather.”
Good luck to Dave and his team! We can’t wait to follow along with your journey and watch you smash that world record.
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