Race Across America pedals here<br><i>Jerome, Verde Valley part of 2,920-mile route</i>

Courtesy photo

EXPECT to see cyclists and their caravans in the area June 21-22 as Race Across America comes through central Arizona.

The annual Race Across America ultra-marathon cycling event (RAAM) will use Arizona 89A and Arizona 260 as part of its 2,920-mile route from San Diego to Atlantic City, N.J.

The lead solo riders are expected to come over the hill from Prescott into Jerome and the Verde Valley on the morning and early afternoon of June 21. The team relay riders are expected here the following day.

From the Verde Valley, the race will take cyclists up the Mogollon Rim into Payson and then on into the White Mountains and eventually New Mexico.

RAAM, entering its 23rd year, is nearly 40 percent longer than the month-long Tour de France. Unlike the Tour, it has no predetermined stages and does not permit riders to draft off one another.

Solo competitors, who start this year’s race on June 20, may ride up to 22 hours and 350 miles per day – sleeping just an hour or two before getting back on the bike.

The team relays, which start June 21, usually run non-stop and may cover up to 550 miles in a day. The top finishers usually complete the race in about a week’s time.

“The Insight Race Across America provides sports’ ultimate test of personal willpower,” says current race director and former competitor Jim Pitre.

“Our athletes are not driven by money or fame, but are highly motivated to succeed when given a challenge and are likely to be very focused in their approach to it.”

The Race Across America first debuted in 1982 and featured just four male competitors.

This year, a record 97 competitors will join the field, with riders representing both genders, 10 countries and ages 22-72.

Allen Larsen of Cle Elum, Washington, is the two-time defending solo champion. He finished last year’s race in eight days, averaging 13.55 mph during the arduous journey.

“RAAM is an incredible event that hopefully more people will embrace,” Larsen said in a press release. “Nothing else on earth pushes your limits the way RAAM does.”

The team relay divisions include two-person, four-person and eight-person (corporate challenge) teams. Several Phoenix area riders will join the corporate division.

Support vehicles will follow the riders as they pedal across the country. Organizers estimate that riders may burn 9,000 or more calories in a day.

For more information, visit http://www.raceacrossamerica.org

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