Friday, May 29, 2009


Race Across the West (RAW) and Race Across America (RAAM) Racers start their cycling odyssey in Oceanside, California, leaving the sound of the Pacific Ocean surf hitting Oceanside Pier and enjoy a police-escorted “parade” up The Strand and the San Luis Rey bike path. By the time they cross under I-15, the parade is over and they’re racing with the RAAM staff providing minimal neutral support. The first time that Crews may accompany their Racers on the route comes after about 21 miles. Separate suggested, but not mandatory, routing is provided from the Start for the follow cars and for other Crew vehicles not allowed on the course until after crossing the coastal mountain range. A series of moderate climbs away from the ocean takes the Racers into the shadow of Palomar Mountain near the crest of the Laguna Mountains. Then, not unlike a blast furnace, the temperatures rapidly climb into triple digits during the steep, dizzying, twisty, 3500-foot descent of the “Glass Elevator” into the Anza Borrego Desert. Desert conditions could get even more difficult below sea level along the southern shore of the Salton Sea, as rising humidity levels make a mockery of the “at least it’s a dry heat” West Coast mantra. Brawley, California, is the RAAM first- day desert oasis with a Time Station and full services between two hot 90-mile sections. These sections take Racers over san dunes and through Colorado River Valley agricultural communities to Blythe and the Interstate Highway I-10 bridge to Arizona.

Without an extensive desert detour there is no alternative to riding the shoulder of I-10 for 30 miles as the race enters Arizona. The route trends up over the eastern lip of the Colorado River Valley to Quartzite (last 24-hour fuel opportunity until Prescott) and then departs the limited-access highway hazards on US 60. The barren stretch between Wenden and Gladden will be mentally demanding: for over 20 miles, the road is perfectly straight and not even the string of telephone poles along the left side of the road appears to alter in appearance. The desert is not a forgiving environment and there are few turnout opportunities for support vehicles maintaining the posted speed. 350 miles into the race, Yarnell Grade along with subsequent climbs into Prescott, finally allow the Racer to bid farewell to low desert conditions while providing white-knuckle driving for support vehicles.

Taking pages from historic RAAM routes of the mid 1980s, this race follows the mountain route from Prescott through Jerome, Cottonwood, and Sedona to Flagstaff. It is suggested that support vehicles not required for this 90-mile section use the fast SR89/I-40 bypass to avoid being trapped into illegal caravanning on the mountain roads and narrow streets of Jerome. The 24 Hour Challenge ends in Flagstaff.

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