Team RAAM: How To Do It in 1996

By Chris Kostman, Race Director

Originally published in ULTRA Cycling, 1996

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RAAM is quite an undertaking, a path as difficult to prepare and organize for as to ride. It's also a path best shared with others. That's why the interaction with crew and other racers is so integral to the RAAM experience.

This teamwork is at its most explicit in the Team RAAM, an event where mutual support and sharing is at the core of the experience. Another wonderful aspect of this teamwork is the communal efforts that go into the planning of the event. Fund-raising, crew training, equipment getting, it's all so much easier to do with four, rather than one.

And team ultra racing, well, it's a hammerfest where speed and horsepower are the name of the game. That's why Team RAAM is gathering such momentum and gaining serious worldwide appeal. Of the fifteen team in 1994, five of them were from overseas. With four teams in 1992, eight teams in 1993, and fifteen teams in both 1994 and 1995, the 1996 Team RAAM should see 25 to 30 teams toeing the line.

Here's hoping that, right now, you take the initiative to join this field. Team RAAM is no picnic, but it is doable, in large part because it is a TEAM event. Here's how to do it:


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 have 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.

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 and master plan include:

  • Total cash outlay for food, motels, gas, rentals, equipment, and supplies.
  • Vehicles (at least two vans and one motorhome).
  • Support crew (at least six people, if not eight to twelve). 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 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, then each rider should be responsible for his/her own equipment.)
  • 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 or sell to sponsors and fans.


Team RAAM costs between $10,000 and $40,000 to do, depending on how you do it, so your goal here is simple: to 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!

Go to the library and newsstands and find at least twenty or more local and regional publications to contact for publicity. Hospitals, service clubs, the Chamber of Commerce, corporations, schools, you name it, they 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! (When I did RAAM '87, I was featured, for example, in the magazine of Kiwanis International, which circulates in 70 countries!!! My sponsors loved this.)

As mentioned, 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 bottom line reduction and better on the bike performance!


While the solo riders 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 hour pulls on the bike, so your absolutely paramount focus in training should be on SPEED. Team Centurion, which won the 94 TEAM RAAM, averaged 22.46 mph for the entire distance! That means 22 to 26 mph 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 beat the solo field by over a day, even though they started 48 hours behind the solo riders.

So while some LSD (that's long, steady distance, not long, slow distance, by the way) 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.
  • 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.

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. In 1992 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: Team RAAM turns into a road race with drafting between teams allowed in the few miles prior to the sprint line outside of Savannah. In other words, it's no longer a time trial. The teams in contention for a sprint finish will no doubt put all of their riders 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, racing in a big pack. (A road's only so wide, so picture the jockeying for position!) And now picture all of this taking place IN THE DARK! It could happen! In an era where a sleepfest, yawn on the couch, let's everybody drop out and watch Miguel win on the tube, Tour de France is the norm, Team RAAM may well redefine the excitement factor in bicycle racing!

Further Reading and Viewing

Knowledge is power, so be sure you and all of your teammates are current UMCA members, and I suggest very strongly that you acquire and read the following books and watch the following videos, for they are an incredible wealth of how-to information on RAAM and Team RAAM:

  • Race Across America, book by Michael Shermer, up-to-date through the 1993 race. Order from RAAM at 2761 N. Marengo Avenue Altadena, CA 91001. $13.95 with S&H.
  • The Race Across America: the Story and Pictures of the 1994 Manheim/Powerade Team, book (big, full color, coffetable book) by Team Manheim, the 1994 Team RAAM runners-up. Order from Cox Enterprises Attn: Debbie Aldrich P.O. Box 105357 Atlanta, GA 30348. Tax-deductible $25.00 each with S&H. Make check payable to PATH Foundation.
  • 1993 Team RAAM, book by Steve Horne of Team PacifiCare/Trek, the 1993 Team RAAM champions. Order from Steve Horne 9551 Autumn Breeze San Antonio, TX 78250. $10.95 with S&H.
  • 1994 Team RAAM, video by Team Coldwell Banker (60 minutes; broadcast quality!). Order from La Jolla Cancer Research Foundation Attn: Louie Coffman 10901 N. Torrey Pines La Jolla, CA 92037. Call 619-455-6480 ext. 202. Tax-deductible $25 each with S&H.

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