(THE WOODLANDS, TX) — The challenge: hop on a bicycle in Oceanside, Calif., and ride along a prescribed course all the way to Annapolis, Md. Oh, and you have 12 days to complete it.
It may sound insane, but that’s the task facing racers in the Race Across America.
This is the 33rd consecutive year that the race is being held. It started in 1982 as the Great American Bike Race, in which four riders raced from the Santa Monica Pier to the Empire State Building.
The race has grown to 48 solo racers and 51 relay teams of between two and eight riders.
Among the solo racers is Dennis Johnson, 61, of The Woodlands.
He’s one of four racers in the men’s 60-to-69-year-old category and one of two racers among all soloists who will be riding on a recumbent bicycle.
The course is three-thousand miles long, and racers will face over 170-thousand vertical feet of climbing.
In addition, racers will face nearly every type of weather condition Mother Nature can possible throw at them — searing heat of the California desert, bitter cold of the Rocky Mountains, and fierce headwinds in the Midwest plains.
And because the clock is live 24 hours a day, you’ll need to add darkness to the mix, although all racers — solo and teams — are required to have crews follow them in motor vehicles at all times.
What do racers need to do in order to succeed?
Besides obviously being among the fittest athletes on the face of the planet, racers will need to spend upwards of 23 hours a day on their bikes, allowing for perhaps 45 minutes of sleep a night.
Solo racers will need to cover at least 250 miles every day in order to finish within the 12-day time frame.
Last year’s winner, Christoph Strasser of Austria, rode the 2,962 miles in 7 days, 22 hours and 11 minutes. The overall average speed of 15.58 mph broke Pete Penseyres’ 27-year-old record of 15.4 mph.
And Strasser will be in Oceanside to defend his title and perhaps shave time off his record pace of last year.
You can follow Strasser’s, Johnson’s and everyone else’s progress throughout the race by logging on to http://raceacrossamerica.org.