OCEANSIDE — Race Across America boasts being the longest running bicycle endurance competition in the world. It can also brag that it is a tough competition that individuals and teams enter to conquer a variety of personal challenges. Riders race from Oceanside to Annapolis, Md., with a team nine-day two-hour finishing cut off time, a men’s 12-day five-hour cut off, and a women’s 13-day five-hour cut off.
The 3,003-mile race that began with staggered starts from Oceanside Pier June 14, June 15 and June 18 is pure sport that offers winners the victory of bragging rights. No cash prizes are given. Most of the 300-plus competitors find finishing the race is sufficient reward.
“You can’t pay someone to do this,” George Thomas, race director, said. “The pain and fatigue are overpowering. It lays your soul bare.”
The Team Korea two-man team changed race plans after one member broke his hip and had recent surgery. “We came here to win,” Kijung Kim, of Team Korea, said. “Now we just want to complete the race.”
Many U.S. teams ride to bring attention to a nonprofit cause. Team Donate Life entered five teams to raise awareness about donating organs for transplant. The top four-person team from Team Donate Life has its sights set on finishing the race in six days. The other eight person teams are out to just finish the race.
During the race, riders cycle through scenic views of Monument Valley and the seemingly never-ending plains of Kansas. “Riding through America is overwhelming,” Thomas said. “It’s unforgettable to race it, or crew it.”
Teams travel together and rotate riders. Part of the challenge is remaining a cohesive team through the race.
“It can destroy friendships being in a minivan for 10 days,” Thomas said. “You’re successful if you’re friends at the finish.”
Solo women riders started the race June 14 and solo men riders began June 15. Individual riders face the challenge of completing the entire 3,003 miles.
“Wednesday when the solo men began the race I knew half the guys aren’t going to make it,” Thomas said. “They’ll be in a lot of pain soon. It’s very difficult.”
Race finishers will arrive in Annapolis June 27.