Team RAAM: How To Do It in 1993

By Chris Kostman

Originally published in ULTRA Cycling, 1993

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Last issue I discussed why to do the Team Race Across AMerica, so this time I'd like to lay out how to do the race. This includes organizing, sponsorship, and training, to name a few major topics.


Get your team together! Find not only three other good riders, but also keep in mind several other variables when selecting your teammates: Would you want to spend a week on the road with them? Will they pull their weight in all aspects of the undertaking? For example, can they bring sponsors, money, support vehicles, and/or crew to the organizing table? Do they connections into local media, bike shops, and business? And are they committed to The Long Run in all of its manifestations? Remember, one weak link in the chain can spell disaster.

So once you've organized your team, it's important to strategize and stay on top of all that needs to be done. Draw up a master plan and divide up the workload of the different aspects of the project. There's no need to double or triple or quadruple your efforts on many of the nuts and bolts of the race. So divide and conquer! Some of the major items that will be included in your budget / master plan are:

  • Total cash outlay for food, motels, gas, rentals, equipment, and supplies.
  • Vehicles (at least two vans).
  • Support crew (at least four people, if not six to eight). Hot tip: take a real, professional bike mechanic along. Perhaps get a local bike shop to provide the mechanic, tools, and spare parts, plus pay that mechanic his or her normal salary for going along. Also, a massage therapist (ideally two) is absolutely paramount.
  • Bikes (if you can't get a bike sponsor to provide equal, matching bikes, which is quite likely, then each rider should be responsible for his/her own equipment. Be sure everyone is prepared.)
  • Bike equipment, like spare wheels, tyres, parts, etc. (If you have a lot of this in common, be sure that you decide the fate of it all for after the race.)
  • Support gear, like ice chests, towels, body care products, CB radios, loud speakers, sound systems, spot and hazard lights, etc.
  • Airfares and other transportation to and from the start/finish for riders and crew.
  • Custom, logoized clothing for riders and crew members, plus extras to give away and/or sell to sponsors and fans.


Your goal here is simple: provide a tangible marketing opportunity in exchange for cash, products, and services rendered - for the expressed purpose of Getting Your Bottom Line Down. Remember, a penny saved is a penny earned! And not having to personally out of pocket a wad of greenbacks to compete in the race does wonders for peace of mind and physical performance. So...

Get your community(s) involved: the local car dealers, radio stations, newspapers, bike shops, fitness clubs, service groups like Kiwanis and Rotary, t-shirt screeners, pizza places, cafés, etc., etc. Go for the obvious sponsorship connections and marketing opportunities like these, plus get creative. Creativity pays big dividends! Look for any and all opportunities to get the word out about your team and the fame and fortune it can bring to your community and its businesses! For example, go to the library and newsstands and find at least twenty or more publications to contact for publicity: hospitals, service clubs, the Chamber of Commerce, corporations, schools, you name it, all have magazines and newsletters that are hungry for this kind of material! You just have to find them, get the exposure, and reap the benefits! (I was featured, for example, in the magazine of Kiwanis International, which circulates in 70 countries!!!)

As mentioned above, go beyond the usual sponsorship opportunities. My title sponsor in the 87 RAAM was an S&L, Imperial Savings. They built a CD account campaign around me which brought in $2.5 million in new accounts in a single branch, triple their usual business! (And this footed the bill for my RAAM and garnered me an incredible amount of publicity which in turn generated more sponsorship!) So get creative and give the sponsors back at least ten times their investment. Make up a detailed list of all that you have to offer above and beyond the usual (and not truly too valuable) logo space on yourselves. If you can build a relationship with a local paper or radio station (or TV!) that will give weekly updates before the race and daily updates during the race, then you can parlay that type of massive media opportunity into excellent sponsorships. The point is to jump on the band wagon Right Now. Your efforts now will pay off later in both bottom line reduction and better on the bike performance!


While the solo riders may (mistakenly) think they need to put in the Big Miles to train for RAAM, Team RAAMers do not have to! You'll probably only do one to two hour pulls on the bike, so your absolutely paramount focus in training should be on SPEED. Team Manheim, which won the 92 TEAM RAAM, averaged 20.4 mph for the entire distance! That means 22 to 25 on any flat road and a serious pace up the grades, plus no wasted time between rider shifts. Riding like this, they were able to pass all of the solo field, even though they started 72 hours behind the solo women and 46 hours behind the solo men. So Team Manheim crossed the finish line first in Savannah. Not bad for a bunch of 40 year old triathletes and USCFers who have "real lives" and work for "decent livings" as a plumber, carpet exec, fitness club director, and corporate CEO!

So while some LSD rides are important for developing comfort and endurance mindset, dialing in equipment, and building base fitness, your emphasis should be on building top-end speed, hill climbing ability, and a higher pain threshold that will allow you to grind out your shifts on the bike at the highest possible speed. Do this with: -Interval and fartlek training.

  • Speedy club rides.
  • A weekly 60 or 90 minute "mile trial" on the same course each week in order to track your progress.
  • Rollers (Do 60 or 90 minute mile trials here, too, plus interval training as well.)
  • Regular event/race participation: do USCF races of all types, triathlons, velodrome racing, even mountain bike racing. Only race pace experience will allow you to ride faster, further in the RAAM. Also do some century rides with your teammates, taking turns doing 30 or 60 minute pulls.

One last note on training: Practice jumps, lead outs, and sprinting! WHY, YOU ASK? Because I am predicting a field sprint amongst the team racers at the finish line in Savannah, GA. Last year we nearly had a three man sprint in the solo race, and at the rate things are going this year, a sprint in the TEAM RAAM seems entirely plausible. Picture the logistics and dynamics of this, if you can: Drafting is allowed within teams, but not between teams. So the teams in contention for a sprint finish will no doubt put more than one rider on the road for the sprint so that their ringer can be lead out for the win. So there could be several four rider teams screaming into the finish, echeloning down the road, but staying away from the other teams in terms of drafting. (A road's only so wide, so picture the jockeying for position!) Unlike a sprint in a traditional four rider team trial, though, the winning team in the TEAM RAAM will be determined by THE FIRST rider to cross the line.

And now picture all of this taking place IN THE DARK! It could happen! In an era where a whopping ten minute spread between first and third in the Tour de France is the norm, the 93 TEAM Race Across AMerica may well redefine the excitement factor in bicycle racing!

Further Reading and Viewing

Knowledge is power, so I suggest very strongly that you acquire and read the following books, for they are an incredible wealth of how-to information on RAAM and cycling in general:

  • The RAAM Book, by Marino, Haldeman, Shermer, and a host of others, including myself. Though a few years dated, it's still the bible of RAAM. Has equipment lists, how-to descriptions on everything from crew incompatibility to vehicle breakdowns, and tons of other info. Plus I'll give $50 off an entry into the Furnace Creek 508 to the first person to send in a postcard telling me the correct number of times my name appears in the book.
  • Sport Cycling, by Shermer. Personal narratives on RAAMs and different record attempts are great, as are the sections on goal-setting and "the psyche in cycling."
  • The Woman Cyclist, by Elaine Mariolle. (Yes, men should read this one, too. The personal narratives on doing RAAMs 84-86 are also insightful and entertaining.)
  • Release the Pace Giraffe, by D.C. Born, the father of two-time RAAM finisher, Steve Born. This is the first person narrative of training for, planning, and doing the 1988 RAAM. This really tells it like it is, down to the nitty, gritty details. (Plus another $50 discount for the 508 to the first person to tell me in writing the correct number of times that I am referred to, by name and rider number, in the book.)
  • Gerädert Race Across AMerica: San Francisco-Washington, das längste und härteste Radrennen der Welt and Sieg im härtesten Radrennen der Welt: RAAM 88. If you can read German, then definitely read these two books by Franz Spilauer (3rd in RAAM 87 and winner in 88).

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