So this past week I have been following the Race Across America, or RAAM as it is known. Imagine the world's longest time trial bike race, starting in Oceanside CA and ending in Atlantic City NJ...The clock is always ticking, and you have to hit certain time stops by a certain time or you get DNF'd (Did Not Finish). Oh, and all the race takes place on OPEN public roads, not closed courses like in the Tour De France. So watch out for traffic!
There are multiple categories for racers to qualify in...team events with 2,4,or 8 riders, male only or female only teams, mixed teams etc. And then there are the soloists. Yeah, one racer, riding all the way across the country, no drafting allowed, mostly without sleep (typically 90min sleep a day) because that clock is always ticking, and you have to get to the end before time runs out. If you're not pedaling you are losing precious time!
As a spectator to RAAM, it can be a challenge. The riders are strung out all the way from western Kansas to Maryland at this moment so you can't really just stand by the road and watch them ride past. There is no TV coverage to watch either. The GPS tracking system the racers use, while public, is unreliable in hilly/mountainous areas. So you learn to follow social media, where most racers have some sort of presence (facebook, instagram, twitter etc). If they have their crew's media person(s) keeping tabs on everything, then there will be regular updates, and even quick replies to querys from the public. Because, riders need inspiration, especially when the road runs uphill into the wind, and the heat and humidity are nearly both in triple digits...and that inspiration can come from those of us who follow their exploits, sent in message form to encourage, and sent financially to those riders who ride for charity.
Probably the most appealing thing about RAAM is the riders are mostly just regular folks, driven to do something mindbogglingly difficult. Folks like some of those I know and ride with at times. Folks with regular day jobs, folks like you, like me.
Thr Tour de France is a totally different beast. Pro riders, teams, pelotons, drafting and strategy allowed, closed roads, etc. Oh, and they cover about 1000 less miles than RAAM and do it in more than twice as many days(with built in rest days)! And they call themselves the hardest sporting event in the world...
I do enjoy watching the TdF, don't get me wrong. I like watching bike racing. And I know my skillset on a bike does not include racing, at least not that type. I've more of a mind to do 24HRs in the Canyon, or Sebring, or The Texas Time Trials. At least those events DO permit recumbents! (So does RAAM).