Race Across America

words by Helen Wooton

Triathletes Kevin May, Helen Wootton, Russell Carter and Brian Welsh, were team jsnt – the first four person mixed team from the UK to race in the Race Across America – bringing home first place in the gruelling 2959 mile cycle race at the end of June, in a time of 6 days, 22 hours and 54 minutes – coming in under their target of 7 days.

Race Across America, established in 1985, is a race, which crosses the US each year; this year starting in San Diego, California and finishing in Atlantic City, New Jersey. Crossing 14 states, climbing 103,000ft, over the desolate Rockies, across the cactus strewn deserts of Arizona and New Mexico, through the windy plains of Kansas and Oklahoma before hitting the Appalachian Mountains and then down into the Amish county of Pennsylvania, before finally venturing across into New Jersey to the end destination of Atlantic City. The RAAM is a unique sporting event in which the riders with full time jobs can go head to head with seasoned pro's. It was incredibly exciting to be part of such a massive race. The support that we received from the organisation all the way across the states was amazing. As we listened at the race briefing that there would be white arrows with Rs painted on the road at every road turning. We sat there, cynically thinking, 'yeah, sure – with 3,000 miles to cover.' Amazing only two junctions that we came to were without the arrows. "That is some achievement in itself." said Helen Wootton, director at local firm, Glazzard Architects.

The 4 person team rode the race as a relay – with one cyclist on the road for between 45 to 90 minutes, before swiftly making the transition to their riding partner. Each pair rode for approximately 150 miles before changing to the other pair and taking a rest. Rest though was often hard to come by in the support vehicle – a 32 foot Winnebago, as it raced ahead to get to the next transition point.

Racing against teams from Brazil, Germany, and USA amongst others, the race was effectively a series of time trials across the country, pushing riders to their limits as they rode through temperature ranging from 102°C through the deserts, to -2 across the mountains at night.

Team JSNT certainly stood out from the crowd – with their race jerseys made from the Union Jack flag – sponsored by the manufacturers www.foska.com, they were cheered across the country by welcoming Americans.

All of the 4 riders admit that the race would have been impossible without the help of their support crew, made up of family, friends and including crew chief, well known frame maker Steve Goff. The crew took turns to help feed, drive and generally take care of the cyclists needs during the 2959 mile ride. The crew found their most stressful task was closely following the rider at night, helping to light their way from behind. Not an easy job if you haven't slept properly for days and riders are going at over 55mph on steep mountain descents – ask Russ Goodwin, a solo rider, whose crew, 500 miles into the race, managed to get just a little too close, knocking the rider off. Needless to say they didn't stay together for too much longer. Abandoned by the crew, the rider had to make the decision to retire from the race or try to make it Atlantic City by himself.

"It’s not just about the cycling. It's about getting out of bed at 3am, in freezing temperatures, having had just 1 or 2 hours broken sleep, getting back on your the bike to begin another series of punishing time trials. Your body is screaming 'no', but you just have to ignore it and get on with the job", said Kevin May.

Team JSNT raced well, beating some of their heavily sponsored competitors. They see this year's race as being a great experience and a good introduction to the Race Across America and are now seeking sponsorship to enable them to return next year in an attempt to break the record for the 4-person mixed team.

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