How to Race The RAAM – Is Riding the Race Across America Route on Your List?

Most people have heard of a Bucket List. Some people may even have one. 

But few people have heard about the Race Across America (RAAM). It’s one of the items on my bucket list.

It has been there since I was 18. I still haven’t done it and I don’t know why. I told someone recently that I wanted to start training for the RAAM, but I didn’t know when it would do it.

They asked me how to enter the RAAM and if you can do the “route” but not do the race… you know, make it a Ride Across America instead of a race.

As I do with questions I come across, I added it to my article list and got to work researching.

The RAAM is a race that goes from the west coast of the United States to the East Coast. You can race individually or as a team. Entry can come via fees or sponsorships (usually for donations to a cause).

Let’s find out a bit more about how you can ride in the Race Across America – or just ride the RAAM route.

What is the RAAM? 

The Race Across America (RAAM) is a grueling sporting event. It is one of the longest-running and most respected endurance races in the world. Cyclists either solo or in teams cross 12 states covering 3,000 miles and sometimes climbing heights around 170,000 feet before reaching the finish line.

Before you decide to race in the RAAM, you need to carefully evaluate your level of endurance. Riders without the necessary stamina will not make it to the finish and may even be putting themselves at risk for an injury or accident. This endurance race is designed to separate casual riders from avid cyclists.  

You can check out our RAAM deep dive in this article if you want to learn more about the race and some really cool trivia facts.

How Do You Race the RAAM & Who Can Race It 

RAAM starts in Oceanside, California, and finishes across the country in Annapolis, Maryland. The west to east route crosses three mountain ranges, along with the great plains and two desert regions.

The race is open to professional and amateur cyclists. Riders have the option of going solo or in two, four, or eight-person relay teams. The global race draws participants from 35 countries, making it one of the largest races in the world. The race is designed to challenge riders, pushing them past their perceived limits. The level of endurance and stamina necessary for finishing is also what makes the course so popular with cyclists of all skill levels.

RAAM is also emerging as a substantial charity platform. Riders have consistently raised over two million for their favorite charities.

Even though you do not have to be a professional cyclist or even on a team, riders still have to qualify before they can participate in RAAM.

Do You Have to Qualify? 

Teams of two or more racers do not have to qualify for RAAM. The only requirement is the presence of a full support team. The number of crew necessary for qualification depends on how many riders are on the team.

Each rider needs three people for their support team. If your team has two riders, the support crew needs six members. Solo riders only need a three-person crew.

Qualifying for RAAM is mandatory for all solo riders. Even professional cyclists will need to qualify if they are riding solo.

You won’t have a problem finding a qualifying race. Currently, you have 53 options in 18 countries. You can choose from a road event; there are 31 held annually. Time trials are another option, or you can participate in one of two fixed-distance courses.

One qualifying road race is held every year in Oceanside, California, before the annual RAAM race. Known as the Race Across the West (RAW), cyclists with qualifying times can compete in RAAM.

Wherever you decide to enter a qualifying race, you can expect a grueling and punishing course. The course can be a loop, point-to-point, or a combination of the two.

Who Controls the Race?  

RAAM began as the Great American Bike Race when cyclist John Marino and three others decided to challenge themselves in 1982. The race began at the Santa Monica pier ending at the Empire State Building in New York City.

The televised race became an annual event, only going virtual in 2020 due to the pandemic.

As the race has grown, so has the team that controls the RAAM.

During the race, the RAAM staff has more than 50 people at the start and finish lines. The time stations along the route are also fully staffed, with over 200 people. The RAAM staff records riders’ times and ensures no one is missing or injured.

Cyclists are responsible for supplying their support staff. Unlike the three big European races, RAAM does not supply way or rest stations. It is the riders’ responsibility to ensure their support crew has everything they need for the race.

Since it takes teams around eight days to finish and solo riders 11 days, cyclists want to make sure their crews have everything packed and ready to go in the support vehicles.

Can Anyone Ride the Route?

Riders who have not qualified for RAAM are not banned from biking along the route. The race is held on public streets; it is impossible to close 3,000 miles of roads and highways.

Cyclists interested in biking along with qualifying riders are free to do so. There are a few rules they will need to follow in the interest of safety and fair racing.

Anyone that isn’t qualified for RAAM will want to give the cyclists the right of way. They are racing for time, and you are only building strength and endurance. You cannot check-in at the time stations along the route. It does not matter if you beat the pack; your time does not count. You don’t want to hold up the other riders that are trying to get through.

To ensure good sportsmanship and to avoid holding up the front of the pack, it’s a good idea to bike in the back. You can still have the experience of riding in part of the RAAM without annoying what may be your future teammates.

Do You Have to Pay Entry Fees? 

Riders will have to pay entry fees, along with other expenses. The cost to participate in RAAM will quickly add up. Working with a team helps to offset some of the expenses. Some cyclists even have the financial support of sponsors.

Solo racers can expect fees around $3,000, and teams can pay $12,000 and higher. Team entry fees depend on the number of riders. Smaller teams will pay less.

Entry fees are not the only expense riders in RAAM pay. There is the cost for equipment and supplies, along with vehicle fees. All riders have a three-person crew with a vehicle. Teams of three will need a nine-member crew with three support vehicles.

On average, riders can expect to pay at least $20,000 to enter and participate in RAAM. It can easily reach $50,000 and more for larger teams. 

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