Article by invitation:
On June 13, 2017, the year’s Race Across America (RAAM) got underway from Oceanside, California. One of the most grueling races in the world of cycling, RAAM sees participants cycle from the west to the east of the US, a distance of approximately 4800 km. People ride solo as well as in teams. The solo race ends in Annapolis, Maryland.
According to Wikipedia, a RAAM winner usually finishes the race in 8-9 days, cycling roughly 22 hours every day. It takes a toll on cyclist and support crew. This year’s participants include Srinivas Gokulnath, Samim Rizvi and Amit Samarth from India. Sahyadri Cyclists – a team of four cyclists and their support crew – was also listed.
G. Rajeev was at the starting point of RAAM to catch his first glimpse of the race.
He sent Outrigger this piece.
I got to the Oceanside pier about half an hour ahead of RAAM’s scheduled start at noon.
The start point was on the boardwalk by the pier. There was a crowd milling about there. It was smaller than I had anticipated; mostly cyclists and their support crew, some race volunteers, a few gawkers who looked puzzled at the activity going on, and of course security folks who were looking suspiciously at anyone wandering by.
It was a beautiful day – clear, sunny and warm, but perhaps not ideal for cycling incredibly long distances. I didn’t know any of the cyclists or their history, but I noticed Amit Samarth immediately thanks to his tricolor jersey. I chatted with him briefly and took a picture. He said this was his first time attempting RAAM, but he had crewed for Seana Hogan last year. She has won RAAM several times.
I wandered around some more, checking out the bicycles and the riders. Mostly a lean and fit bunch, as one would expect with lean and sleek machines in tow. Some looked intense but most were relaxed and seemed in a jovial mood. The crew looked more on edge in general.
I saw someone who I thought might be Samim Rizvi, so I asked him if this was his first time doing RAAM. When he said, “ No, this is my fourth,” I knew it was Samim. I then took a couple of snaps. Samim was preoccupied discussing something with his crew, so I left him alone and went off to stand at a point a little beyond the start.
The race started with Race Across the West (RAW) racers heading out at intervals of about a minute or thirty seconds. There were some four person teams in this race and maybe some two person teams as well. After about thirty minutes of this, the race volunteers changed out the signs to indicate that the RAAM racers were set to start.
The women went out first, followed by the other racers in what seemed to me to be random order. Each support vehicle followed its racer closely, some driving by sedately and quietly and some going by with yells and raucous music. There was one racer on a handcycle, a couple on a tandem and one racer on a bike that he had modified at home into a recumbent.
It was daunting to look up the boardwalk as the racers cycled by and think of the 3000 miles of road that awaited them. I waited for Amit and Samim and a few more and then headed back.
My phone was almost out of charge and my parking meter was expired.
There were still quite a few cyclists left at the start when I looked back at around 1:30 PM.
(G. Rajeev is an engineer by profession. He is based in San Diego, California. For more on Samim Rizvi and what it is like to attempt RAAM, please click on this link: https://shyamgopan.wordpress.com/2017/05/23/chasing-a-10-day-raam/)